Denny Hamlin (eighth) was the highest finishing Camry driver in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at California’s Auto Club Speedway.
David Reutimann (10th), Joey Logano (11th) and Martin Truex Jr. (18th) also finished in the top-20 in the 200-lap race at the two-mile Southern California oval. Other Toyota drivers in the field included Scott Speed (24th), Casey Mears (25th), Reed Sorenson (27th), Kevin Conway (31st), Marcos Ambrose (33rd), Kyle Busch (35th), Joe Nemechek (37th), Landon Cassill (40th) and Jason Leffler (43rd). Hamlin remains second in the unofficial NSCS point standings and trails current leader Jimmie Johnson by 36 points after four events in the 10-race 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoff. Busch fell two spots to ninth- place — 187 points behind Johnson.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 8th Are you frustrated with your finish today? “I needed it to go green that last 20 laps. We were catching the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and those guys. I felt like we were going to finish third or fourth. Just got those restarts. That was our Achilles heel all day — we’d lose three or four spots every lap for the first couple and then we would make them back up. A little bit frustrated. All in all it’s a decent day. Can’t be too disappointed with it — especially from where we started. It’s somewhat uplifting that we got out of here with a top-10 day. On the other hand, we felt like we at least could have raced those guys.” What do you think about the way other Chase drivers — like Tony Stewart — have picked up wins? “There in a position where they’ve got nothing to lose. It’s all or nothing for them. I told you all two weeks ago in Dover that Tony (Stewart) could catch fire at any time. It’s not surprising for me. That’s a great race team and Tony (Stewart), obviously knows how to step up when it’s game time.” Were you handicapped by having to start at the rear of the field after changing a transmission? “It was a little bit, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It wasn’t something we couldn’t overcome. We were in the top-10 by lap 50 or 60. The next 150 laps we only gained two spots. We had an up and down day but we definitely had a good car there at the end. I was proud of the adjustments we made.” How were the restarts? “It was wild. You’re in a position where a lot of guys are racing extremely hard, the guys that are just racing for nothing. It’s a balance — it’s tough. You don’t know how to approach racing some guys, but its pretty much every man for himself out there.” How do you look at the point standings with more than half the Chase left? “We are in a decent spot — we’re not in a great spot. We run better the second half of the Chase, we always have. At this point to be within whatever amount of points we are, probably 50 or 60, I can take that and I can race him from there.” EDITOR’S NOTE: Hamlin is currently in second-place in the Chase standings, 36 points behind first-place Jimmie Johnson.
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 10th How was your race? “It was up and down. We had a really good car. We came from a pretty good ways back in the pack. We got up inside the top- 10 then came down pit road, made no changes just changed four tires on it and it went to pieces. We made a pretty big adjustment the next time — put tires on with some different codes and stuff like that then we had over adjusted for that. One set wasn’t working well. We spent the next couple runs putting it back. It’s just disappointing when you have a really good car and you really bust your tail and you can’t even come down pit road and put four tires on the thing without it going to heck. It happens, it’s just really discouraging. I ended up battling back, should have been better than 10th, I just messed up coming off (turn) four and let two guys get by me. All in all, it was good pit stops and ended up being a good day from the way it was looking like it was going to go.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 11th
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 18th How was your race? “It was a rough one. We started really bad. The guys worked on our NAPA Toyota and it actually got really, really good. We were the fastest car on the track there for a long time. We drove up fifth or sixth and then sitting there running in the top-10, having a decent day, working on our car and getting better and better. Just got wrecked on pit road by the 20 (Joey Logano) car. It was unfortunate. You’ll have those things I guess.”
SCOTT SPEED, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 24th
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 25th
REED SORENSON, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 27th
KEVIN CONWAY, No. 7 Extenze Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports Finishing Position: 31st
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Little Debbie Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 33rd
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 35th
Did you have any warning that something was wrong? “I wasn’t feeling anything. There was just a weird pop off of turn two one time when I got to the throttle wide open and it blew the back of the hood seal between the hood and the cowl — it blew it up. So, I don’t know what happened. I said, ‘Well, that didn’t sound too good. I’m not sure if it’s going to make it the rest of the race.’ Apparently, it didn’t. Real unfortunate for all these guys and the way we were coming back right there with that run. We finally got some adjustment in the car that made it were it was heading back towards the front and it just blew up.”
Can you put this disappointment in perspective? “No. Not really. On to another year. It’s over.”
What happened? “Just engine failure, apparently knocked us out of the race. The guys did a great job there adjusting on the car — getting it a lot better for us. We had something there coming back forward and got to fifth, and it just blew up. Real unfortunate, but it is what it is.”
What happened on the pit stop that put you back in the field? “We came back in to put a hose back on one of the ducts because it popped off.”
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 Heat Redefined.com Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 37th
LANDON CASSILL, No. 64 Toyota Camry, Gunselman Motorsports Finishing Position: 40th
JASON LEFFLER, No. 66 Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports Finishing Position: 43rd