Sweat poured off Ryan Truex's brow after he climbed from Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 car on Saturday, but there was a smile on his face as well.
After a pit road speeding penalty that required him to start at the rear of the field, Truex worked hard to rally for a 10th-place finish in the Nationwide Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway – his first of seven scheduled races this season for JGR.
"There's a lot of people that doubt me, for whatever reason," Truex said. "I'm young, I haven't proven myself in the Nationwide Series yet, I haven't won yet. I feel like I've earned this ride, and I'm just trying to prove it."
Truex said he was "happy" with the overall day, particularly since sponsor Grime Boss is the first personal sponsor he's ever had. He's eager to perform for the company to reward executives' faith, he said.
"First race at Bristol, first top-10," he said. "So I can't complain."
Justin Allgaier walked over to Trevor Bayne's window and leaned in to have a discussion after the race.
But Allgaier wasn't talking to Bayne because of a problem between the drivers. Rather, he was curious about Bayne's view of Allgaier's clash with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Late in Saturday's race, Allgaier and Stenhouse Jr. made rough contact while racing for position.
"You know what? It's Bristol and it's hard racing," Allgaier said afterward. "I wish it hadn't happened, but it is what it is and we go on to California. No big deal."
Allgaier said drivers never forget anything, but added, "I'm not the type of person that's ever going to retaliate."
"You do everything to race as hard as you can and as clean as you can and hope everybody else races you the same way," Allgaier said.
Stenhouse Jr. was unavailable for comment after the race.
Heading into the Bristol race, Danica Patrick figured to struggle at another short track – the type of circuits which have been her nemesis in NASCAR.
But she ended up running a clean race and finishing 19th, two laps behind the leaders.
"It's respectable for me on a short track," she said. "There wasn't many yellows either, and usually that's pretty hard on me, not being able to tune on the car."
Patrick's JR Motorsports teammate, Cole Whitt, didn't fare much better (16th) despite being known as a more talented short-track driver.
"I know that's my area of weakness and where I need to work on things the most," Patrick said. "I think we both have different strengths."
Despite not being entered in the Nationwide race until the last minute – the No. 60 car had no sponsorship until a few days ago – Bayne led a career-high 64 laps and finished eighth in Saturday's race.
He spent a significant amount of time racing for the lead with teammate Stenhouse Jr., but both drivers were burned by pit strategy when they took two tires.
"It's not fun when you're trying to hold your breath every corner trying to hang on at Bristol, but it is good for us to be battling like that for the lead," Bayne said. "Jack (Roush) has got two stout teams here running hard and two drivers who are hopefully the future of his company. That's where we want to be."
Bayne said he would drive in the Nationwide Series race at Fontana next week, but it was his understanding there was no sponsorship for the car.