Toyota MENCS Auto Club Speedway – Qualifying Recap

Toyota Racing Post-Qualifying Report
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Auto Club Speedway – March 15, 2019

1st, Austin Dillon*
2nd, Kevin Harvick*
3rd, Aric Almirola*
5th, Joey Logano*
*non-Toyota driver


KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Qualifying Position: 4th
Any solution to fix this qualifying format?
“They fixed it in trucks, right? Made single car qualifying.”

Did you hear the fans booing during the final round?
“That’s their problem. It has nothing to do with the competitors. Don’t hate the players, hate the game.”

Are the teams in a box with this qualifying format?
“You can’t be the leader. If you’re the leader, you don’t qualify up front.”

Would you be okay with this qualifying format if NASCAR continues it moving forward?
“Yeah, it’s going to be all about who can figure out the timing from leaving pit road to coming back around to being able to take the flag with the time running out for everybody else behind them.”

What is the right strategy for this type of qualifying?
“In a perfect world, you try to leave pit road with the exact amount of time that it takes to come back around for you to be able to take the green flag and everybody else’s time to be disallowed, but we all missed that.”

Was there a sense when the top-12 rolled for the final round that you weren’t going to make it around for time?
“Yeah, when we got through the middle of three and four my spotter was calling out the time that was left and I knew there wasn’t enough time.”

Do you expect this to happen again if this qualifying format remains the same?
“I’m sure it will happen again. If the rules stay the way they are then it’s going to happen again. It happened in Las Vegas, there was four guys or three guys that had their time disallowed there.”

Can you be the first to roll off pit road in the final round of qualifying?
“You don’t want to be because if you’re the first guy and there’s a couple guys behind you that get through with the time not expiring then they’re going to out-qualify you no matter what. You cannot be the first guy without hitting it exactly perfect leaving pit road to only give yourself the chance to take the green and everybody else take the red and black.”

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Qualifying Position: 6th
Do you feel like that final lap is a mind game?
“No, it’s not a mind game but you don’t want to be first. When you don’t want to be first, you wait until someone goes in front of you.”

Is this a scenario where if did run a lap, you would get first and get a free pole?
“Yeah, well, the risk that you run is that people behind you would be good by a second or so, and then get the pole. If you are the first in line, you aren’t going to get the pole unless you time it perfectly. We’re not that good.”

Did you have a strategy?
“No, I knew I had a drop-down time on my dash. But I was boxed in where I couldn’t go. Once everyone left pit road, they then checked up and slowed down. I knew we weren’t going to make it.”

What do they do now?
“I don’t know. I really don’t have anything to add. I don’t know what else you can do because the lead car is at such a disadvantage in qualifying. Not in the race as much, but certainly in qualifying, you don’t want to be first and when you don’t want to be first, it will be a waiting game no matter what.”

Who do you feel bad for most in this scenario?
“With enough thought, we can come up something that will be good. I don’t know what that is. Maybe I’ll think about something tonight. But I am not sure. Any time you have a big drag package, a drafting type package, being first will not be good.”

Where do things go from this point?
“Most of your 1.5-mile tracks will be like this. Unless something changes. I am not educated enough to know what the answer is. I am sure they will have a meeting tonight to talk about what the best option is. Truthfully, I am not sure you all heard any good options in this entire media bullpen.”

What are you having to deal with in those last two minutes?
“I read some stuff where you don’t want it to be by chance. You don’t a 20th-place car to get the pole. There is some strategy, there is some driver skill that comes into it. Certainly, this is a little different than what we’ve been used to. Maybe we have to suck it up and get used to it. Maybe we tweak it where fans can see all the cars. Where you draft up until the final session and go one-by-one. I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s the answer.”

Is there randomness to this?
“Yeah, there is randomness to it. But I have probably the top 15 drivers highlighted on my computer in the car and eight or nine of them are in the top 12. It’s not totally by chance. You do have to have a fast car and good driver.”

MATT DIBENEDETTO, No. 95 Procore Toyota Camry, Leavine Family Racing
Qualifying Position: 24th
How frustrated are you with this qualifying format and what it’s turned into?
“Just frustration, not at our guys. Our guys do nothing but work their tails off and give me a good Toyota Camry. That’s fun, but I have to say thanks to everybody here at Procore and all the folks that give me this opportunity, but the situation – I don’t love losing my mind every week in qualifying.”

What could you have done differently?
“I don’t know, start wrecking everybody. You’re my PR person here, just make sure I stay politically correct. I have no idea. My crew chief (Mike Wheeler) Wheels said I get so angry and lose my mind afterwards because it’s just a cluster and your emotions are high. He said, ‘Dude, it’s just situational.’ It’s frustrating because they put in so much hard work and we go out there and we all look like fools.”

MARTIN TRUEX JR, No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Qualifying Position: 27th
How much of a role did the 51 car play in your qualifying lap by being in front of you during part of your lap?
“It was just that he (Cody Ware) ran the bottom in three and four, which is where I wanted to be. Since he was just leaving the pits, he ran high to get his momentum up like normal and just missed the bottom there and that obviously hurt our speed there off three and four. It’s unfortunate, we missed it today off the hauler. We were pretty tight in practice and then we were way too loose there. We were just on both sides of it. We’ve been struggling a little bit on Fridays, but I know we’ll be right tomorrow and we’ll have some cars to pass Sunday, but I know we can do it.”


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