Camry driver Denny Hamlin earned his seventh victory of the season in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Martinsville Speedway.
The win marks the third consecutive victory for the Chesterfield, Va.-native (Oct. 2009 and March 2010) and fourth of his career at the half-mile Virginia oval.
Hamlin started from the pole and led twice for 40 (of 500) laps in the race.
The win marked the 11th NSCS win of the year for Toyota and 32nd since joining the series in 2007.
Kyle Busch (fourth) and Joey Logano (sixth) also finished in the top-10 for Toyota. Other Camry drivers in the field included Kasey Kahne (14th), Robby Gordon (22nd), Scott Speed (23rd), David Reutimann (27th), Martin Truex Jr. (29th), Marcos Ambrose (34th), Casey Mears (40th), Joe Nemechek (41st) and Landon Cassill (42nd).
Hamlin cut into Jimmie Johnson’s point lead, but remains second in the unofficial NSCS point standings and trails Johnson by six points after six events in the 10-race 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoff. Busch moved to the fourth position and is now 172 points behind Johnson.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 1st Have you ever been able to close the gap so fast in a race as you did today? “I don’t think I’ve ever closed that well – ever. We kept working. We did not have a race-winning car all day until the very end. Mike (Ford, crew chief) and those guys just adjusted and adjusted. The pit crew got me from sixth to third on that last restart and that was the key – bottom line that was the key. I was just waiting and hoping that the 31 (Jeff Burton) and 29 (Kevin Harvick) would use their stuff up racing each other. I was just sitting there and sitting there trying to be patient with those rear tires and saved it for the end. Just a great run by this FedEx team. I have to thank everyone from Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing, Coca-Cola, Gillette, FedEx, Sprint for their support and these Martinsville fans – I can’t say enough about them. This is unbelievable. I had already counted how many points I was going to be behind after this race.” What happened to your car early in the race when you fell back? “I’m not sure if we had a left-rear tire equalize or what not, but I was very worried. Everyone saw how far back we were dropping and I thought it was the end of our day. We kept fighting, kept digging, kept making up spots throughout the day and just had the best car at the end. I just can’t say enough for everyone who put all the work in to get this done. This is a come- from-behind victory.” How did you approach the closing laps of the race? “I just tried to be patient. I knew that the 29 (Kevin Harvick) and 31 (Jeff Burton) were extremely fast all day and they were the class of the field, but all I could do was try to time how many laps I had to run on this set of tires and go from there.” How does it feel to be only six points behind Jimmie Johnson in the points? “It’s a great feeling and what’s a better feeling is being here in front of all these Martinsville fans. I love everyone here and they’ve always been great to me. I can’t believe we’re back in victory lane.”
MIKE FORD, crew chief, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing What were your thoughts at the start of today’s race? “To start, it didn’t look too good. Backed straight up, slowest car on the race track. After yesterday we kind of chased the racetrack a little bit. Came in this morning, put a setup in the car very close to what we’ve run here last couple of times. Looked like we made the wrong decision. I knew we couldn’t be that far off. So I figured something was wrong with the car. Instead of making wholesale changes, we went a little bit more than what we typically would change hoping we saw something with a set of tires coming off. We certainly did. We saw a lot of buildup to the left rear, probably four times more than we normally see. We knew right there if something was going to happen, if it was the race car making it do it again, but we never saw it again all day. Very fortunate to not panic and lose the race right at the beginning.”
J.D. GIBBS, president, Joe Gibbs Racing How does it feel to have all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars finish in the top-six today? “It was encouraging. When the race started, it wasn’t going the way we had planned. I think for our guys just to keep their heads, stay calm, work on it. Each car had their own issues, but especially the 11 (Denny Hamlin) did a good job making their way back up, doing what you have to do, being conservative on pit calls, but at the same time being wise in how you go about the whole championship hunt. We’re excited about that. We’re still in it. We’re so proud to represent FedEx. They’re so excited back home in Memphis. Kind of fun to call those guys and let them hear our excitement here in victory lane.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 4th How do you feel about your finish today? “That was just a good way to run here at Martinsville – one of these places that I struggle at tremendously. To come out of here with a fourth-place finish – I can finish fourth here – I’ve done that maybe two or three times, but any higher than that, I’m struggling for it. All these guys on this M&M’s team did a great job. We were fighting it since we unloaded. Made a lot of changes to it and tried to make it a lot better and we got it there. What a race there at the end with 100 laps straight on tires – that made it look like Pensacola (Fla.) in Late Models.” What happened between yourself and Jimmie Johnson? “It’s racing and I felt like I had the faster car than he (Jimmie Johnson) did and he was kind of slowing the center down a little bit. That’s where I was faster. I couldn’t get by him on forward bite – he had better forward bite than I did, but if I could just roll my line and just keep rolling around there then I could be faster than him. I was just getting agitated. Typical short track fashion – you come down toward the end of the race and he wants to keep his points intact and I want to get up there and run a little bit better and put him further behind from Denny (Hamlin). There were too many different things going on there. Jimmie and I – we know how to do it and I didn’t do it rough enough to where I turned him or nothing. I just tried to give him a little bit, a little bit to try to get by him. Finally we got by him so it worked out.” Are you pleased with a fourth-place finish? “It was a tie of a best career finish – I’ve done it like three or four times. Fourth is getting a little tiring, but after a day that we fought there – we’re happy with that. I’ll take it. This isn’t one of my best places to begin with, but Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and all these guys on this M&M’s team did a great job. They gave me a good race car. We weren’t quite the best out there today – we were slow on the get-go, but it seemed like lap 50 to lap 100 there at the end we were pretty good and we could run those guys down a little bit. All in all I can’t thank these guys enough. They kept digging in hard all weekend and we unloaded a little bit off, but Dave and the guys did a nice job. To bring home a fourth – we’re happy with that. I have to thank M&M’s, Interstate Batteries and Toyota – everyone that is a big part of this program.” How was your race today? “It wasn’t a bad day. We really fought a couple things that we made changes with, but overall the guys did a great job from when we unloaded here. We were a little off, but Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys never gave up on this M&M’s car and they made a lot of changes and got it a lot better. Real proud of the effort and the way we came out here today. Pit strategy got us up front and we kind of kept it from there. We weren’t that great on the beginning of the run – I would fall back a little bit – probably a couple seconds off the lead, but then after about 40 or 50 laps I could start reeling them back in a little bit. There wasn’t enough of those long runs in there to keep us in the ball game. Overall a good day for us and we’ll take it. Everybody wants to ask about points – I chipped away at it, but I’m not chipping very much.” How hard did you have to work in the race? “I was working pretty hard. Jimmie (Johnson) and I had a heated battle there for a little bit. I was just trying to get by him. I knew he was trying to protect his points and he was doing what he needed to do to finish well – as best as he could anyways. I kept leaning on him and kept leaning on him. I was faster than him in the center of the corner, but he had better drive off the corner than I did so he could stay in front of me. Finally once I got by him I seemed to pull away a little bit, but by then it was way too late to go get the front runners.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 6th
KASEY KAHNE, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 14th How did you feel about your first race with Red Bull Racing Team? “We made some gains. Really learned a lot about the program. Feel like next week it’s going to be better. And the following week it’s going to be better. And we’ll just keep going after it. Engine ran great. Car ran good. Everybody put out a good effort, and we got the best spot we could today.”
ROBBY GORDON, No. 7 Extenze Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports Finishing Position: 22nd
SCOTT SPEED, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 23rd
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 27th How was your race today? “That really wasn’t how I thought our day was going to end. We started out so strong and had a really good Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota early in the race, but as the race went on things got a little crazy. There were cars trying different pit strategy that shuffled the field and we had some guys driving pretty aggressive and just a lot of hard nosed short track racing. We fell victim to a combination of factors that put us in the wrong place at the wrong time and it cost us. It’s a pretty disappointing day, but I’m really proud of my team. We had great pit stops early in the day to help us gain track position and the guys did a great job getting the car back out after it got messed up. Not the best day, but we’ll take what we can from it and head to Talladega next weekend and try to have a better day then.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 29th How has bad luck impacted your season? “This season certainly has not gone the way we wanted. I guess we’re getting all the bad luck out of the way now. We just need to keep our focus and get better as a team for next year and run for a Chase spot. It was tough out there today. We weren’t very good at the start, but Pat (Tryson, crew chief) made a big change on our third stop and the NAPA Toyota started to get better. Unfortunately it wasn’t long until our problems started. It’s hard to tell what we could have done out there. We just need to get a little luck on our side.”
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Dollar General Country Million Sweepstakes Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 34th
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 40th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 41st
LANDON CASSILL, No. 64 Little Joe’s Auto Toyota Camry, Gunselman Motorsports Finishing Position: 42nd