Toyota MENCS Richmond Post-Race Recap

by Official Release On Sun, Apr. 22, 2018

Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Toyota Owners 400 — Richmond Raceway
Race 9 of 36 – 300 miles, 400 laps
April 21, 2018

TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, KYLE BUSCH
2nd, Chase Elliott*
3rd, DENNY HAMLIN
4th, Joey Logano*
5th, Kevin Harvick*
10th, DANIEL SUÁREZ
13th, ERIK JONES
14th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
35th, GRAY GAULDING
*non-Toyota driver

TOYOTA DRIVER POINT STANDINGS**
1st, KYLE BUSCH 415 points
6th, DENNY HAMLIN 286 points
7th, MARTIN TRUEX JR. 284 points
12th, ERIK JONES 233 points
21st, DANIEL SUÁREZ 161 points
**unofficial point standings

· Camry driver Kyle Busch capped off the Toyota Owners 400 race weekend at Richmond Raceway with his third-consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) victory on Saturday night.
· Busch also won three consecutive MENCS races in 2015 and went on win the Cup Series championship for the first time in his career that year.
· Busch started the Toyota Owners 400 from 32nd and would come all the way to the front to lead 50 laps and win the race for his fifth career MENCS victory at Richmond (leader in wins among active drivers at Richmond).
· Virginia-native Denny Hamlin finished third at Richmond – his 11th top-five at the short-track in 24 career starts.
· Along with Busch and Hamlin, three other Toyota drivers would go on to finish inside the top-15, including Daniel Suárez (10th), Erik Jones (13th) and Martin Truex Jr. (14th).
· Busch remains the leader in the unofficial MENCS standings by 56 points over the next closest competitor, while Toyota leads the Cup Series manufacturer standings by 13 points following Richmond.

TOYOTA QUOTES

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Flavor Vote Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st

What does it feel like to be in victory lane for the third consecutive race?
“All these guys – everybody on this whole M&M Camry, they do a great job for me. I can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys and the pit crew tonight. They won this race for us. They got us off pit road first those last two times that we came down for tires and got us where we needed to be. In case anybody is wondering why this car is so many different colors this week, it’s for the M&M’s Flavor Vote. So, anybody can go and vote for their favorite flavor of M&M’s so there’s Mint and Expresso or Raspberry and then those flavors will be in stores this summer. It’s a pretty cool deal that M&M’s does every year and gets new flavors out to the market. I can’t say enough about this Toyota Camry. It was just awesome today. Out front all day long. I want to thank DVX Sunglasses, Rheem, Interstate Batteries, Cessna, NOS Energy Drink and all of the fans. This is really cool for as good as the crowd was tonight. Really cool out here in Richmond, really chilly but otherwise it was a fantastic evening so hopefully everybody enjoyed that.”

How cool is it to win three races in a row?
“It’s definitely cool we’ve won three in a row. We did it a couple years ago and now I don’t know if you can shoot for four in a row. It’s hard to go to Talladega with that much of a winning streak and think that you can go to victory lane, but we’re going to go there anyway and give it a shot. We’ll see what we can do. Our guys are amazing. They’re awesome every week and I love racing with these guys and Joe Gibbs Racing. Everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Costa Mesa, I appreciate you guys. I think this is the first Toyota to win the Toyota Owners 400 if I’m not mistaken, but if I’m not congratulations to the last guy but I’m pretty happy to be here tonight.”

What was the difference for you in the end of the race that got you here to victory lane?
“I think the difference for us tonight was just the adjustments. Trying to stay with the race track all night long. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my guys did a phenomenal job. I think one of the other keys to the night was just my guys – my pit crew – they got us out front when it mattered the most those last two pit stops. They were awesome tonight on pit road. I’m really excited to be in victory lane at the Toyota Owners 400. I can’t say enough about Toyota, M&M’s and everybody that works on this car. Interstate Batteries, NOS Energy Drink, Cessna, Black Clover and the fans of course. I appreciate the fans. This was a great evening of racing. I hope everybody enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun and great to see such a good crowd out here tonight. I don’t know man. Just cool to get M&M’s back here in victory lane.”

How were you able to make your way through the field early in the race?
“The first run of the race we actually made really good ground. I was really happy with the way our car took off there at the beginning of the race. As the night kind of wore on we just didn’t quite have that advantage to everybody. Everybody kind of gained and got a little better and we made some adjustments and changes to the car in order to try to help ourselves and it seemed to be better there. Then, the last couple runs were just short runs. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys making the right adjustments to the car to have it faster on the short run was where it was at.”

Have you ever had this much momentum in your career with three straight wins and seven consecutive top-three runs?
“No and you know I certainly would love to be doing this if this was week 10 of the playoffs we’d be talking about something pretty cool, but I hope it’s not peaking too early. Obviously this is way early in the season. We’ve got a long way to go. These guys are hungry and warmed up and ready to rock.”

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 3rd

What are your thoughts on the way tonight’s race played out?
“Definitely battled back quite a bit. Not completely happy with third by any means, but I tell you congrats to our teammate there (Kyle Busch). That’s a great accomplishment and we’ve just got to get a little bit better. We’re a little bit behind. We fought back. We had a 15th-place car early and we were able to battle back there and get it right there in the top three. Really need a longer run for our car to come in. It seemed like our car was very strong off the corners late in the run, but just on the short runs there at the end that was Achilles heel.”

How difficult was it to restart on the outside lane in the late going?
“Real tough no doubt. If they had a cone rule I’d be starting on the inside third, but it’s just the cards you’re dealt. It’s just as easy you could’ve come off pit road first and then you get to choose where you get to go. It’s still on the front row and gives yourself a shot, we just spun the tires there and didn’t get a good grip.”

Does it feel like a win after struggling Friday in practice?
“Not really. I’d like to be carrying the checkered flag like the 18 (Kyle Busch) is there. We couldn’t make a lap on Friday without sliding up towards the wall so we definitely made it better. I would say at the first half of the race we didn’t make it better, it was still really bad but we made some adjustments today that made our car quite a bit better. We got some track position there with some good pit stops. Our car was extremely good with the long run in the second half of the race and that got us back in contention. Just needed a 600 mile race.”

ERIK JONES, No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 13th

How was your race?
“Just a really tough day. We really just didn’t have the right car from the start. I wasn’t too sure about it during practice, but once we fired off we realized it was going to be a pretty big struggle all day. We hung with it and fought hard and came home with an okay finish, but just need to get a lot better for the next one.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY, Furniture Row Racing
Finishing Position: 14th

How disappointed are you with the results tonight?
“Pretty disappointed that we didn’t get at least a chance. It’s unfortunate, but I don’t know what we have to do to win one of these short-tracks and get everything to go the way we need it to. Tonight we beat ourselves, so that’s unfortunate. The guys did a really good job with the race car. We were awful at the start of the race and I thought we were really in trouble. Just fought all night long and tried to stick with it and make good adjustments, and put ourselves in position to try to win another one and just came up short. Frustrated, but proud of everyone for the effort and hopefully we get them next week.”

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