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What drivers said after Phoenix

Kyle Larson celebrates in victory lane and is presented the series trophy by NASCAR's Steve Phelps. Also hear from team owner Rick Hendrick, Vice Chairman Jeff Gordon, crew chief Cliff Daniels, and Larson's wife Katelyn.

A look at what drivers said after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series championship race at Phoenix Raceway...

Championship 4

Kyle Larson - Race winner and 2021 Cup champion: “I think, just thinking about the journey and how tough of a road it’s been to get to this point for so long, but especially the last year and a half, and too, I think just the atmosphere, I haven’t felt an atmosphere like this maybe ever. With the pressure of this race and everything that was on the line, to win this championship - every one of these fans made me feel it. I was trying to tell myself to just chill out, stop tearing up. I make fun of my dad all the time for crying, and I’m worse than he is. It’s just so cool. So cool. So thankful. Thank you to (team owner) Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon. We have so many people from here, Hendrick Motorsports. This is just awesome, an awesome day.”

Martin Truex Jr. - Finished 2nd in race and 2nd in points: “I don’t know. Clean air seemed to be a good bit of an advantage there. Whoever got out front was there for 20, 30, 40 laps and then the long run cars would start coming around. I don’t know. Ultimately, we needed to beat them off of pit road. It’s unfortunate, but we win and lose as a team. I’m really proud of our efforts this year. Big thanks to everyone that makes it possible – Bass Pro Shops, Auto Owners, Reser’s Fine Foods, Toyota, TRD, Sherwin Williams, Oakley, Textron, Noble Aerospace, all of our partners. That’s three times that we’ve been second and that sucks. Second hurts, I’m not going to lie, especially with the car we had and the job the guys did. That’s racing as they say, and sometimes you’re just not on the right side of things. We were on the right side of things to get the lead there, and weren’t able to hang on to it. If we could have had the lead, I think it would have been over, but that’s kind of how the 5 (Kyle Larson) did it. They had a hell of a season, congrats to them. Gosh, dang, it sucks. I hate it.”

Denny Hamlin - Finished 3rd in race and 3rd in points: “I really liked where we were at with 25 (laps) to go. We were just exceptional in the long run, which wasn’t too surprising. Started running the 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) back down there and got within a couple car lengths. Obviously, that debris caution changed a lot. Special congrats to (Kyle) Larson and their team. Any time you win 10 races in a year, you’re absolutely a deserving champion. They did a great job on the last pit stop and got him out there. It was over after that. Proud of my team, great effort adjusting on the car all day getting it so much better. Thank you to our partners at FedEx, Toyota, Jordan Brand – just a really good year, a really, really good year. It just didn’t pan out. We needed that thing to go green and it didn’t.”

Chase Elliott - Finished 5th in race and 4th in points: “Yeah, maybe (we needed) just the right set of circumstances. I felt like our NAPA Chevy was really good, and I thought our team did a really good job preparing this week. I was really proud of our group. I thought we brought a really good car and did a lot of things that we were wanting it to do today, just didn’t work out, and the sequence of the way all that went certainly was unfortunate for us. But look, proud of our team, a lot to build on, and also congrats to Kyle and Cliff (Daniels). What an amazing season. Very, very deserving champions, and glad to see Kyle have success. When you’re a good driver and a good person and you surround yourself with good people, success is warranted. It’s good to see that. But we’ll be back stronger next year and try to give them a run.”

Other Drivers

Ryan Blaney - Finished 4th: “We had a good race. There was a group of us that were kind of behind the top-4 guys that were racing pretty much all day. We had a good Mustang there on the last run and we were able to get up to fourth. I am really proud of that effort. It was a really good last run for (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) before he hangs it up. I wish it was a win. I can’t thank him enough for the last couple of years and I can’t thank this whole group enough for this year. It has been a lot of fun. Hopefully, we will be in the Championship 4 next year.”

Aric Almirola - Finished 6th: “What a season. What a day. We worked so hard to finish off the season strong, and we ran where this 10 team was capable of running all year. It was such a rollercoaster of a year. We had some really high highs and really low lows. We capped off the season with two sixth-place finishes when we’re running in the midst of the championship-contending playoff drivers, and I can’t be prouder of that after the year we’ve had.”

Kyle Busch - Finished 7th: “We had a decent M&M’s Camry. We just lacked overall grip, something we fought for the entire day. We had some good pit stops and made the best of the car we had.”

Brad Keselowski - Finished 10th: “Yeah, it was a fun race. We couldn’t really catch any breaks today. The first stage there we stayed out and got that long run and kind of got ate up. We recovered from that and got ourselves back in the hunt to sixth or seventh and then we pitted under green a little early to try to pick up some spots. But the yellow came out and trapped us a lap down. We were 23rd with like 50 go to and we drove back up through to 10th. I would have loved to see that race run a really long green there at the end to see what we could have done. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Cole Custer - Finished 13th: “We started off strong today and finished in the top-10 in the first stage but then started to really struggle with the balance on our racecar in the second stage. That caution during green-flag pit stops in the final stage put us back, but we were able to recover for a top-15. Thankful for the support this season from all of our sponsors, Ford Performance and SHR. We learned a lot this season and will continue to build in 2022.”

Austin Dillon - Finished 15th: “Crazy to think that today was my 300th NASCAR Cup Series start. It went by fast, and I’m so thankful for RCR, ECR, our partners and fans for supporting us through all of the highs and lows. We had fast Dow Coatings Chevrolet today at Phoenix Raceway, just got a little bit behind early. We took a gamble and stayed out during a Stage 1 caution, but it didn’t pan out and we went one lap down. We burned off the right-rear and lost all of the track position that we had gained by staying out. It was only a small setback, though, and this RCR team never gave up. We earned the Lucky Dog in Stage 2 to get back on the lead lap and we were knocking on the door of a top-10 after that. Our Chevy was pretty good for most of Stage 3, but it started to get a little too snug at the end. Congrats to Team Chevy for earning the Championship this year. Thanks to the Dow Coatings group and Behr for all of their support this weekend, and to all of our partners and fans for all of their support all year. We’re already looking forward to 2022.”

Tyler Reddick - Finished 19th: “This season has been great for our No. 8 Richard Childress Racing team. We learned a lot and made significant gains from the beginning of the season. We found ourselves in a hole early to start this year, but Randall Burnett and everyone on this team pulled together and we steadily climbed our way out of it. To make the playoffs in just my second full Cup season is an accomplishment that I’m proud of. Today, our BetMGM Chevrolet made us work extremely hard for every little bit. I was scratching my head at times figuring out what the car was feeling, but with every adjustment, we would make small gains. Overall the car was just too tight to really run up front and contend for the win. I wish our result would have shown what we have built all year, but I couldn’t be prouder of this team. Now, it’s time to get ready to play with the NextGen car in 2022.”

Chase Briscoe - Finished 35th: “It’s definitely cool to end the season as Rookie of the Year and to have that in all three series. I definitely had higher expectations coming into this year, but it was a weird year. As a company, we struggled way more than we thought we would. You base your expectations off of last year, and we just weren’t quite there from a performance standpoint, so you alter those expectations a little bit. The 14 team was competitive in a couple of races and battling for a few wins and top-fives. I think we have proved that whenever we get the car driving right and have the speed, we are fully capable of running up front with those guys. I wouldn’t say the season was a thumbs up or a thumbs down, maybe somewhere in the middle. There is still a lot that I have to learn to do better. The Cup Series guys are so good. You have to be on it 100 percent and clean up a lot of little things. I feel like going into the Next Gen car it will be nice to have a year under my belt and know all the little things to work on during the off-season to try to apply to next year.”