Daytona 500 Media Day Recap

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Audio: “NASCAR Live – The Best of Daytona 500 Media Day”

Motor Racing Network talked with all the drivers during Wednesday’s Daytona 500 Media Day.

Here are some of the highlights of what the drivers told MRN during our live broadcast on MRN.com.

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota

On the confidence of coming to Daytona as a two-time Daytona 500 winner:

“Coming into 2016, I hadn’t won any Daytona 500s and now to have a couple of them here in 2020, there’s certainly some confidence there. We’ve shown over the last eight years, the results would show that we have been a factor at the end of these races every single year.”

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 11 DEWALT Toyota

On if he learned anything in the Busch Clash before his car got damaged on his way to the win:

“The first 50 maybe but not the last three or 35 that we ran there. The first 50 we did learn quite a bit. The weather was similar, which was nice. Anytime you can have similar conditions and learn feels good. It seemed very relaxed at first and we learned some stuff handling wise. I think our 500 car is a little bit better than what we had for the Clash.

See Also: Jones: ‘No intention’ to Leave JGR

Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 43 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet

On his tandem jump with U.S. Air Force Academy Wings of Blue on Thursday:

“The main reason is because the partnership that’s on my chest with U.S. Air Force. We get to do a lot of cool things. I’ve gotten to go up in fighter jets. A lot of the drivers in the room have only gone up once and I’ve gone up three times. We are jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, a C-17. Supposedly we are landing right in the grass on the frontstrech.”

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Menards/Peak Ford

On visiting”Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Tuesday:

“Yesterday we were at Galaxy’s Edge, which was really cool. It’s my first time being there and got to experience it firsthand. Disney really hooked us up and took us in some backdoors and showed us around, which was pretty special being a childhood Star Wars fan.”

See Also: Blaney, Wallace Visit Galaxy’s Edge

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet

Goals for 2020:

“I want to win races. I want to be in the Final Four. From a competitive standpoint nothing has changed. One thing I’m really proud of is where I am in my heart. I know this is my last year, but I’m not done racing. I’m fully committed to this year, my goals on track have not changed at all.”

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford

Has the dynamic of superspeedway racing changed – the moves, the blocks. Is it different or not?

“It is and it isn’t. I think what’s probably changed more than anything else is we went from there being wrecks because drivers didn’t know. Kind of like you would make a mistake and it would cause a wreck. Now we are in a position where most of the drivers generally know what’s going to cause a wreck and just don’t care. So that’s a big difference. There’s still wrecks like there’s always been, but we have gone from having wrecks where it’s just a lack of awareness or sometimes even a lack of talent to just having wrecks because we just can. It’s a little bit puzzling in some ways. It’s a product of multiple factors. But it will definitely be something that we will see in the race.”

See Also: Logano and Keselowski Talk

Brendan Gaughan, driver of the No. 62 Beard Motorsports/South Point Chevrolet

On making his last Daytona 500 start in his four-race schedule this season:

“I only have four chances left. These are my last four. This is the ’62nd’ running of the Daytona 500. I never thought I would still be doing this still. I retired in 2013 and thought I would be done and the beard family has been such a great bunch of people to work for. They give me great Chevrolet race cars every time we show up. I’m just blessed to be sitting here in this deal doing this.”

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Ford

On his contract extension:

“The one thing that became very intriguing to me was this new car. Not only the new car, the plans of engine packages, hybrid packages and all the different things that are coming and the challenges with this new car to become competitive. I think for me it’s always about being competitive and winning races and I like doing those types of things with the guys I’m with. I’ve worked my whole career and you always hear guys say I need the right people, chemistry, organization and manufacturer and I have all of those.”

Alex Bowman driver of the No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet

On his third consecutive front row start in the Daytona 500:

“It’s really neat it’s one of those things as much as I want to be pumped and take a lot of credit for it, I really just didn’t screw it up. I held it wide open and if I didn’t hold it wide open they would have yelled at me. That resulted in a good lap but it’s way more about the Hendrick engine shop, chassis shop and fab guys building an awesome race car to come down here with. Be as efficient aerodynamically as possible and having great horsepower. I got my launch pretty good off pit road and didn’t lift and I think that was really the key there.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Axalta ‘Color of the Year’ Chevrolet

On what he learned in the Busch Clash:

“It’s tough to learn but I never realized from not being in the race that with not as many cars, there’s not as much energy within the pack. If everyone is committed and racing, which is hard to come by because everyone has different agendas and strategies to get to the end of the race. If everyone is committed there’s a lot of energy in the pack. The biggest thing I learned is that some little tid bits of how our car drove that I think we could apply towards the 500. I think it’s kind of a journey through the week in evolution of the car. Obviously for us at Hendrick we go for qualifying speed, mange through the Duels and then work on our drivability on Friday and Saturday. That’s our plan, that’s our strategy so we have a lot of room to go in terms of that area but I think those are the things I’ve learned in the Clash.”

Chad Finchum, driver of the No. 49 Garrison Homes Toyota

On being one of the drivers that will have to race their way into the Daytona 500 in Thursday’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel:

“There’s a couple drivers, (Daniel) Suarez and (Reed) Sorenson that we are going to have to out run. We’ve got to beat them, eve got to get in. They are looking at it the same way, they’ve got to outrun us. We are going to do the best we can…Always have to mindful of where they are at. As long as they are behind us I’ll feel pretty comfortable.”

Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker OffRoad Chevrolet

On racing in the Daytona 500, a race he won in 2018:

“This is my favorite race. Favorite Sunday of the year because of the hype, because of the buildup. I wake up and I cherish every moment up until the green flag and I get in the car and try to be focused as I can. I was able to win it in ’18 but I want to do it again.”

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet

Picked up another win on dirt Tuesday night in the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions Jean Lynch Classic at East Bay Raceway Park:

“I got the win last night and drove back here and got here about midnight. Honestly I was joking last night with Paul Silva, because he takes all the sprint car trophies when we win. But last night they didn’t give us a trophy. I didn’t have to alter our trophy cases at all.”

Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 17 Fastenal Ford

On being back with Roush Fenway Racing:

“It’s been a really awesome experience. It’s neat coming back to a place where you have so many friends. I got my big break in stock car racing. Jack and Robbie Reiser took that huge chance on me early on to say I can be a professional race car driver with not a whole lot of credentials at the time. Pretty awesome after a couple years of getting my legs underneath me and keeping experience in race cars that they were able to bring back over in house and go back to race for the team I always figured I would.”

Corey Lajoie, driver of the No. 32 RagingBull.com Ford

On new crew chief Ryan Sparks:

“He’s a young motivated guy that wants to make that car go as fast as possible and he’s got a little bit of a chip on his shoulder. RCR really didn’t have a spot for him in the offseason so he kind of got pushed over to our deal. I think he has something to prove just as I do.”

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford

On his feeling of racing in the Daytona 500 for the first time:

“I don’t know what that feeling is going to be like. You try to block it out as much as you can and try and treat it as a normal race. You prepare and do what you can. Just try to take it one step at a time is the biggest thing for me. I don’t think you get too much pressure if you just focus on what you have in front of you and what you need to do.”

JJ Yeley, driver of the No. 54 Rick Ware Racing Ford

Will have to race his way into the Daytona 500 in Thursday’s second Duel:

“I’m really hoping that Brendan Gaughan is really fond of his car that he just wants to ride around in the back and just make the Daytona 500 on speed and leave it up to me and Timmy Hill to duke it out for that last spot.”

Justin Haley, driver of the No. 16 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet

On the July Cup Series Daytona winner competing in the Xfinity Series race and the Daytona 500:

“We are at Daytona so it’s not like we are taking big swings at the race car. It’s not like we are going to Phoenix where I’m driving two completely different cars. Based off the July race we are going to have really fast Xfinity Series cars as well. Having fast race cars and great people around you is going to make that transition go way easier.”

Ross Chastain, driver of the No. 77 AdventHealth Chevrolet

On his schedule in other series this season to go along with his full-time ride in the Xfinity Series:

“Definitely less Cup stuff. Just the way everything has worked over the offseason. These opportunities with Chip Ganassi Racing partnered with Spire Motorsports just here and the Coke 600. From there I have a half dozen or so in the truck and we are trying to add everywhere. Al niece has brought on a lot of new drivers so I’m going to help them as much as I can even if it’s from on top of the roof.

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