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What drivers said after Martinsville Cup playoff elimination race

An emotional Christopher Bell "can't believe it" after winning at Martinsville to punch his ticket to the Championship 4 at Phoenix, and thanks his No. 20 team for believing in him through the ups and downs.

What drivers said during and after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Round of 8 playoff race at Martinsville Speedway, where Christopher Bell won for the first time to advance to the Championship 4:

Christopher Bell -- winner: “Mom and dad, we did it! Wow. I can’t believe it, man. To come here in Martinsville, this place has always been so tough on me. Just prerace looking up, seeing all the fans, this place is packed. I don’t even know what to say. Just thank you so much to everyone on this Joe Gibbs Racing 20 team. They believed in me since Day One. We went to Xfinity and did pretty well, struggled on the Cup side for the first little bit. They stayed with me. Very appreciative to be here. Man, I say it all the time, but the driver is just a small piece of the puzzle for these races. The reason why this car won today is because it was the best car on the racetrack. Adam Stevens, this entire 20 group, they just never give up. When our back is against the wall, looks like it’s over, they show up and give me the fastest car out here. Words can’t describe this feeling.”

Kyle Larson -- Finished second: “It must have been a little bit easier (to pass). (Denny Hamlin) was able to drive to the lead there. The leaders lapped a lot of cars today. To me, it seemed to be very close to normal Martinsville, but maybe still a little bit harder to pass when you got within a car length.” (On the Phoenix) “There is a lot on the line for us and our team. Two opportunities to bring Mr. H (Rick Hendrick) a championship and we would love to do that. We were decent at Phoenix earlier this year, but I’m sure we’ll be a lot better than we were the last time.”

Ryan Blaney -- Finished third: “It just wasn’t quite enough. It was a wild day. I didn’t think we were great to start. We kind of faded at the end of that first stage, but we got better throughout the night, which is good, and found ourselves in second on the second-to-last run and kind of ran the 20 down. I got to him and then you burn your stuff up trying to pass somebody. There weren’t many passes for the lead tonight and then the last restart I thought I was in a good spot on the bottom. I thought more pandemonium was gonna happen than that and the 20 got down and he was able to kind of go to work and I couldn’t really get going as good. It’s unfortunate not to transfer, but proud of the effort. I didn’t do a great job the last two weeks and put us in a bad spot, but I’m proud of everyone all year and we’ll try to go run well at Phoenix. I ran him down by a little ways and got closer, but I just couldn’t pass him. You kind of burn your stuff off trying to pass somebody and he kind of drove away from me. We still had a shot at it there with the last caution and just didn’t get through the traffic as good as he did and once he was able to get the lead. I’m proud of the effort tonight by everybody, but it just wasn’t quite enough.” (On Ross Chastain’s move) “I just saw it and I guess I wish I should have done it. I guess we’ll all start doing it now coming down to the end of the race.”

Brad Keselowski -- Finished fourth (dropped to last on a disqualification): “We were solid all day. We had the spin there early and recovered from that. We had a good call at the end by Matt McCall to take two tires, but we just weren’t quite strong enough. We kept locking up the left-front and had a good shot at it. I was gonna cross over (Chase Briscoe), and he parked it and then everybody ran over me from behind and just never got another shot at it, so that was unfortunate, but, overall, it was a really good race for our team and another day of solid progress. We were that fifth to tenth place car and just needed a little bit more speed out of it to make something happen. We had some ups-and-downs for sure and at the end we rebounded with a nice top five. I’m proud of our recovery and our effort. We had a good day on pit road and a good call there at the end to take two tires, but just needed a little bit more speed out of our car to make that count.”

Ross Chastain -- Finished fifth: (On his move to ride the wall and improve from 10th to fifth on the last lap) “Played a lot of NASCAR 2005 on the GameCube with (brother) Chad growing up. You can get away with it. I never knew if it would actually work. I did that when I was 8 years old. I grabbed fifth gear, asked off of two on the last lap if we needed it, and we did. I couldn’t tell who was leading. I made the choice, grabbed fifth gear down the back. Full committed. Basically let go of the wheel, hoping I didn’t catch the Turn 4 access gate or something crazy. But I was willing to do it. For this Trackhouse group, we’ve done everything. We did so much right this year. Today for our Chevy, we didn’t have what we needed. Just glad we could do whatever we could do. A great pit stop on the last stop to put us in position to even be close enough. Our pit crew guys are incredible. All we asked for is a chance. I hope everybody remembers that two years ago in the fall of 2020, I went down to the Southern 500 with Spire Motorsports. It was a big deal for us to race with sticker tires on. We had a podcast sponsoring the car. It was a big deal to beat one car. Single-digit laps down. That was two years ago at the Southern 500. To be here fighting for a championship now, it’s so surreal. When I make mistakes on track, I hope everybody remembers two years ago I was out here seven laps down. I just can’t believe that we have a chance to go fight for a championship. All we ask for is a chance. We kept our world small this year so far. We’ll do the same thing going to Phoenix.”

Denny Hamlin -- Finished sixth: “You got to execute all day. We just didn’t control the race when we had control of it. Each caution, we just kept losing some spots. That’s the way it is. But thank Chris Gabehart, the whole team for giving me a fast car today. It was unbelievable when it was out front. Yeah, just couldn’t quite hang on to it there on pit road. But congrats to (Bell), those guys just did an amazing job, really capitalizing and doing well, winning races when they needed to. Hopefully they can carry the banner for (Joe Gibbs Racing). Obviously I was trying to get in there. But it’s racing. It’s what racing is here as Martinsville. Actually pretty happy with somewhat how clean it was there towards the end, as crazy was it was with guys on different tires. Can’t say enough for my team to give us a shot. We were in 20s for most of the season in our points because of our up-and-down execution. We’re going to end up fifth in points. That is what it is. (On Chastain’s move) Great move. Brilliant. Certainly a great move. When you have no other choice, it certainly is easy to do that. But well executed.”

Joey Logano -- Finished seventh: “It was interesting. We were OK. I thought we were capable of running in the top five for sure. We had that fire and had to pit to fix the fire and we lost our track position and then it’s just hard to pass. You get a couple spots here. You get a couple on a restart. You get a couple on pit road and then we kind of found ourselves in the spot you don’t want to be in – you are the point person. If the 11 passes me, he’s in. If he stays behind me, he’s out. That’s like the last guy you want to be, so I figured I was gonna get knocked out of the way at some point. We accomplished our goal. We did a really good job on pit road. We needed some good stops and got some momentum there. We had a solid race car. I didn’t make any enemies and I still have my crew chief next week. Those were the goals and we did that.”

William Byron -- Finished eighth: “Unfortunately, we weren’t really in the game. I knew that early on in the race, we were making some progress, but we just struggled all day. The first three-quarters of the race were pretty miserable. Nothing like what we had in the spring. We were just tight with not a lot of pace. The No. 24 Chevy team kept their heads down and got a decent finish out of it, so that was a good lesson for the day.”

Chase Briscoe -- Finished 10th: “Yeah, I probably needed less laps, that would have been nice. If I would have known that move Ross did, I move done that. Yeah, we were obviously on a lot older tire there. Thought there for a little bit I was going to be OK. I just fell off a cliff pretty hard. I should have used the wall. Pretty good deal to use there. I thought about it in the past but was never brave enough to do it. I couldn’t hold those guys off with new tires. I just didn’t have the forward drive or even the side to hold them off. Knew when (Brad Keselowski) got to me, I was going to be in trouble. At that point I was so much slower than those guys, they were just able to drive through me. Proud of our team. We were in position at the end to potentially capitalize on it. Just the penalty at the beginning buried us. Win as a team, lose as a team. These guys have kept me in the Playoffs giving me positions on pit road. Go to Phoenix next week and see if we can win. (On Chastain’s move) “He was behind me. Probably 10 car lengths behind me. My spotter told me I think he was needing a point. I saw him coming, I was like, oh, my gosh, he’s cleaning me out here, coming wide open. I saw him go to the wall. I was pretty amazed. I was just cringing when he got to the gate off of (Turn) 4. I think all of us have done it on some video games, whatnot. He executed it well. Curious to see what kind wormhole that opens up at the end of these races going forward.”

Chase Elliott -- Finished 11th: “Yeah, super mixed emotions. We made the drivers side and didn’t make the owners side. Just would have loved to have gotten the boss two cars in there. So certainly excited from the driver standpoint, but would have loved to have gotten both those boxes checked. Unfortunately didn’t. But, yeah, looking forward to getting home and working through what we need to work through to get ready for Phoenix. Certainly, we’ll be ready to go the best we know how next Sunday.”

Austin Dillon -- Finished 34th: “It was an unfortunate ending to our race today at Martinsville Speedway. We didn’t have the greatest car all day, but I think we could have got up there and battled. Something broke during Stage 2 and we hit the wall. It’s not the way we wanted our day to end. We’ll head to Phoenix Raceway to close out this season on a strong note.”

Tyler Reddick -- Finished 36th: “It wasn’t the race we wanted today at Martinsville Speedway. We were running a solid race early. My spotter, Derek Kneeland, saw the stack-up coming, and I checked up a bit. I ran into the back of Noah Gragson a little bit, and the car behind me hit me pretty solidly from behind. It was a pretty hard hit from both the front and the back. After that I just didn’t feel 100 percent, so I didn’t want to put myself into any further danger. We ended our race early just to play it safe.”