Camry driver Denny Hamlin earned his eighth victory of the season in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin led twice for 31 (of 334) laps en route to victory lane to sweep both Texas races, after also winning the April event at the 1.5-mile oval.
Toyota driver Joey Logano finished fourth, earning his fourth consecutive top-10 result in as many starts. Other Camry drivers in the field included Marcos Ambrose (12th), Kasey Kahne (13th), David Reutimann (15th), Casey Mears (26th), Scott Speed (27th), Kyle Busch (32nd), Robby Gordon (35th), Martin Truex Jr. (38th), Mike Bliss (39th) and Joe Nemechek (43rd).
Hamlin took control of the unofficial NSCS point standings following Texas and holds a 33-point advantage over second-place Jimmie Johnson with two races remaining in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoff. Busch moved to the seventh position and is now 339 points behind Hamlin.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 1st What does it feel like to win the race and take the lead in the point standings at Texas? “I just can’t say enough for this whole FedEx team. I told everyone I’d wait for three to go and I felt like that’s the most aggressive as I’ve been on restarts all year. I did what I had to do. I can’t thank FedEx and all their employees enough for supporting me right from the get go. The whole JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) 11 team, the fans, Sprint and Toyota. I can’t say enough for this Toyota Camry to be on top. This is a big deal for everyone in the Toyota camp. They spent a lot of money and a lot of effort to help this sport grow and be one of the top manufacturers and I’m proud to put them number one.” What is it about Texas Motor Speedway that you’ve been so successful at this year? “I don’t know. At the beginning of the race we were struggling. We were running 25th and I can’t go anywhere. We just kept working on it. Every stop we kept adjusting and as soon as it was night fall our car just took off. That’s why you can never look at qualifying and practice, everyone looks into it, but I know what our car has.” How important was this Texas victory? “I tell you, it’s a great feeling. It’s unbelievable to me to have eight wins in one season. This is absolutely unbelievable. To do it in a timely fashion that we have and beat those guys. I had to drive my heart out to do it. That was the first win I’ve gotten other than maybe Martinsville where I had to just drive the crap out of the car in the last few laps. I love racing Matt Kenseth, there’s no better person I’d rather have on the inside of me.” How does it feel to take the lead in the point standings? “Well, for me, I’m going to continue to just race relaxed, and honestly, I think back to a couple years ago, and even late in these restarts and what not — I don’t get excited anymore. I just don’t let things get to me much anymore and just race relaxed. I’m really not nervous going into races. I was more nervous at the very first Chase race in New Hampshire getting ready to start that race than I was from then to this point. For me, we’re on the cusp of trying to get our first championship, and as long as we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we should be okay.” Can you take us through that last restart? “It was exciting. I figured I had been pretty good on the top on restarts once we got our car tightened up enough that I was pretty confident I would be okay. But restarts have been my Achilles heel all Chase long, all year long. I just can’t seem to get it together. So I was able to side draft the 17 (Matt Kenseth) enough on the front straightaway to keep beside him so where he couldn’t clear me off of (turn) 2, and that was going to be very important. But, when he cleared me in the middle of (turns) one and two, he did it by gassing up really aggressive and early and I knew it was going to be a hard time for him to exit the corner that way, and he obviously ran out of race track and it opened up the door for us to cross over. For me, it was great to win a race that way. I love racing for a win like that. Any driver will tell you if there’s one guy you’re going to trust underneath you, it’s going to be Matt. Obviously it’s great for him to have a good finish and obviously go for a win, but for me it was very gratifying to win a race that way.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) How will you approach the final two races of the season? “You know, for me, I’m going to race Phoenix as if I’m 33 (points) behind to be honest with you. There’s no comfortable margin going into Homestead because anything can happen. So for me, Phoenix being an up -and-down race track for me, I’ve got to really be focused on practice day to get what I need to give Mike (Ford, crew chief) the information that I need and just 100 percent stay focused is all I can do. But like I say, I’m not going to be conservative having the lead. I’m going to want to stretch that out before we get to Homestead. So that’s pretty much my mindset.”
MIKE FORD, crew chief, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How much work was this win for your team? “That was a lot of work. We weren’t that good to get started, but we knew yesterday in practice we had a good car. If we could get it close, it was going to have speed, and we fought for track position. The last two races we haven’t qualified well here so I really wasn’t that worried about it. The sun started to go down, two tires, got some track position, and that’s when our car really started to work good, and the last adjustments were probably the best of the day. It’s a lot of the same that we were doing. But we adjusted probably more than 90 percent of the races so far this year.”
J.D. GIBBS, president, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How does this win feel? “I think what was kind of fun about this race, the race starts and we’re not that good, you’re kind of waiting for them to get going. And I kind of get panicked and you listen to Denny (Hamlin) and you watch Mike (Ford, crew chief) and they’re not worried, they’re just calm and collected, and it’s kind of a great plan, so it was kind of encouraging to watch that and just for it to pay off at the at the end of the day. Really, hats off to those guys.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 4th Are you happy with your finish? “Yeah, we had a good day. For me at Texas, this is great actually. I was kind of expecting to be happy with a 12th or 10th-place finish here. I was thinking that would be a good day for us. Then all of a sudden I was in the lead and I was like, ‘Heck yeah, I’m leading laps.’ I thought that was pretty cool. I’m like, ‘Man, who would’ve thought that here.’ I had a lot of fun with it. I had a good race car, I was just a little bit short at the end. We were good in the sun. I think we did a good job adjusting, but I think everyone did a little bit better than us to get the car just a tad better than ours. We finished fourth so that’s cool. My last finishes we were seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth so that’s pretty cool. We’re going to run out of time — we need to skip a couple spots to get to first by the end of the season.” How much momentum do four straight top-10 finishes give your team going into the off-season? “We have a lot of momentum right now and I think two consecutive top-fives is also exciting. I’m pumped up about it. If we were in the Chase we’d be about fourth or so right now, so that’s exciting knowing that we’d be there. We’ve just got to do a good job next year getting ourselves in the Chase.”
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Tomb Thumb Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 12th
KASEY KAHNE, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 13th
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron’s Outdoor Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 15th How was your race? “That was a disappointing day to say the least. We had a great Aaron’s Outdoors Toyota and ran up front all day long. We raced our way into the top-five and I thought for sure that we’d be racing for the win at the end. Unfortunately, the car didn’t agree. As the track conditions changed so did the No. 00 Camry. We struggled with the car going quickly from tight to loose in about five laps and after that I was just doing my best to hold on. We brought home a top-15 finish, but we should have done a lot better based on how we ran most of the day. I’m proud of my entire team to keep battling all the way to the end. We had great stops most of the day and everyone gave it their all. I’m not happy with the end result, but we’ll work on it and do better next time.”
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 26th
SCOTT SPEED, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 27th
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 32nd How was your race? “It was a tough day. We had a fast race car. The guys did an awesome job. I can’t say enough to the guys that gave me a fast race car today, but unfortunately I got spun out there trying to get to the bottom lane. I had guys in front of me doing it before, but I got wrecked. Then, on the ensuing pit stop there we tried to get tires on it and beat the pace car out and I wasn’t trying to speed. I was just two lights over or something like that I guess and I sped on pit road. Then they penalized me for it. I’m sorry I lost my cool to everybody on this team, to everybody at NASCAR and all of my guys that support me – Norm Miller (chairman, Interstate Batteries) and M&M’s and all of the guys. It’s just so frustrating the way that you have such a fast race car and then you get spun out and you don’t expect to lose your cool, I guess.” How much do you think the camera in your car played into your penalty? “I don’t know. I don’t know if the camera inside the car did or not, but it’s just unfortunate. It’s something that I lost my cool in what I was doing and I had no worries about a camera inside the car at that point.” How disappointing is this after having such a good car? “We’ve had fast race cars this whole weekend — probably had a good enough car like Denny’s (Hamlin) to try to win the race, but it’s just real unfortunate there. I got spun out and just everything else went downhill from there. Through the whole day we had a really fast race car and the guys on this M&M’s team gave me a great race car that was fast, that was capable of winning, but it’s just unfortunate that I tried pulling back and getting down to the bottom lane and I got spun out in doing that. Where I had another guy earlier in the race do that to me and I let him in. You get spun out and wrecked like that and you’re not supposed to lose your cool — I mean, hello. I came down pit road and we got the right sides changed and then tried to get back out there. I wasn’t trying to speed, but apparently I must’ve been a couple lights over or something like that on my tac where it was just a small speeding penalty, but it wasn’t intentional. Obviously, I got the penalty for that and then the ensuing ones later. I apologize to all of my guys for letting them down and for getting so behind today that we could never make it up.”
ROBBY GORDON, No. 7 MAPEI/Menards Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports Finishing Position: 35th
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Signature Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 38th What happened to take you out of the race? “After we spun and then lost a tire, we weren’t all that bad considering how banged up we were. I thought we had a shot to rebound and rally back. Unfortunately, we lost another tire and the damage it caused was too much to continue on. It’s really unfortunate.” What has the reaction been this weekend with the special paint scheme? “I was hoping for another strong run for us because this NAPA Signature Toyota means a lot to so many people. People came up to the car all weekend looking for names of loved ones who were on the car. Some of them came in person to see their name on the NAPA Signature Toyota. This has been a very impactful project for everyone involved and I was hoping to have a great run to help bring more attention to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.”
MIKE BLISS, No. 66 Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports Finishing Position: 39th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 Heat Redefined.com Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 43rd