Camry driver Joey Logano (third) was the top-finishing Toyota driver in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Phoenix International Raceway.
In the last five races, Logano has earned five consecutive top-10 finishes and three straight top-five results — earning finishes of seventh (Charlotte), sixth (Martinsville), fifth (Talladega), fourth (Texas) and third (Phoenix).
Hamlin (12th) led the most laps (190 of 312) at Phoenix to earn 10 bonus points towards the Chase championship.
Other Camry drivers in the field included Kyle Busch (13th), Martin Truex Jr. (15th), Marcos Ambrose (22nd), Casey Mears (24th), David Reutimann (26th), Kasey Kahne (30th), Robby Gordon (33rd), Scott Speed (35th), Mike Bliss (39th) and Landon Cassill (40th).
Hamlin continues to lead the unofficial NSCS point standings following Phoenix. He holds a 15-point advantage over second- place Jimmie Johnson with one race remaining in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship playoff.
Busch is in the seventh position, 347 points behind Hamlin.
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 3rd What are your thoughts on your fifth straight top-10 finish and third consecutive top-five result? “These guys did awesome. Our last few finishes have been crazy — we’ve been seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth and third in a row, so that’s pretty crazy. I never thought that. The guys did a good job with the Home Depot Toyota today. We had a lot of things that went wrong during the race — we didn’t start the race very well at all. We fell back to further back than 20th. Everyone kept their head in the game and did a good job. We fought pit road with the 13 (Casey Mears) pitting right in front of us and we would get boxed in there a couple times and lost track position. The biggest thing we fought at the end of the race was track position. We were every bit as good to run up there. Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief) and the guys did an awesome job. It’s fun to be up here.” How was your race today? “Zip (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief) did a great job getting this thing right for me — that was the biggest thing. I thought we were going to be good to start the race and we then fell backwards quite a bit. I think we fell back all the way to 20th or so. We fought track position for the rest of the day. We lost spots in the pits because the 13 (Casey Mears) was in front of us — we just had a bad pit box and couldn’t get out well. We kept losing track position there at the beginning of the race and then about halfway through we got the car closer and I feel like the last stop we got it pretty close. We got our Home Depot Toyota up there. It’s cool that our last finishes are seventh, sixth, fifth, fourth and third in a row — that’s pretty cool. I’m pretty excited about that.” Did your team have a fuel strategy? “It kind of worked out pretty good for us because as we were fighting for track position we had that long green flag run and only had about four cars behind us on the lead lap. What we did was pitted under that caution where a lot of leaders stayed out and we tried to make it there. We had five or six laps more (for fuel) than the other guys did because we pitted. It turned out perfect for us. Sometimes a little misfortune turns into good fortune.” What do these consistent finishes mean to you at the end of the season? “It’s huge, huge. We’re trying to get 15th in points. The 39 (Ryan Newman) beat us today, they finished second. But, we’re close. We lost as little as possible there. If we finish off the year like this, I’m excited about next year, that’s for sure.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 12th What is going through your mind after this race? “Well, we had a great car and that was real important. We did what we had to do. The strategy and what not at the end just didn’t work our way. That’s all I can ask for, is to have the better car than those two guys — and we did. But, unfortunately the strategy bit us. We’re just going to have to go there and do it the old fashioned way next week and try to beat them on the race track.” Can you describe your frustration? “I’m frustrated — trust me. This is one of the bigger let downs I’ve had. I can tell you — I’m going to use this as motivation for next week to go out there and try to win.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) How do you feel about next weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway? “The important thing is we have a good car for next week — it’s going to be our Texas car. So, we know we got a good piece there. These are the things — this is why we run the races. This is why you can’t crown anyone before this thing is over is because if any kind of strategy or anything goes wrong, it could be the decid ing factor in the championship. So, for me, it’s a tight one. It’s just going to be whoever runs best next week.” How do you feel about not winning with a dominant car today? “It’s frustrating, for sure. But, it’s better than being behind, I guess. We were looking good right there and things just didn’t work in our favor. Just going to have to fight to the end. That’s all I can say, it’s going to go down to the very wire at Homestead. Hopefully, we’re on the best end of it.” How do you move forward from today’s race? “Well, the important thing for me is I’m going to have to put this behind me and when I head out on the airplane this afternoon I’ve got to leave Phoenix in Phoenix and move on. So, it’s frustrating. Gosh, I can’t tell you how frustrated I am right now.” Will it be hard to sleep and concentrate this week? “No. I’ll be all right. I’ll be okay.” What do you think went wrong at the end of the race? “We were short on fuel so we had to stop.” Is frustration a challenge you’ll need to overcome as you head into the final race of the season? “It is. For me I guess as soon as I leave Phoenix, I have to leave Phoenix in Phoenix. That’s the thing is you can’t let this — I couldn’t control it. I did everything I was supposed to do today. Things didn’t work out for me. All I can do is concentrate on next week once Monday comes and put it behind me. So the thing is, it could have been a lot worse. We could have lost the points lead. But regardless, you never know what can happen in the final race. I hate that it boils down to the final race, but that’s what fans love and things like that. I felt like we’ve been the best car over this Chase and we might not win it.” Does going into the final race with the points lead give you confidence? “It does. Trust me, I’d rather race next week knowing I need to go out there and I need to win the race than knowing I need to finish 15th. That’s the mentality I’m going to have next week, is to win the race. Full-court press will be on. It will be one of those things where you’ll probably see me as aggressive as I’ve been all year. It’s just one of those days that happens in racing. That’s why we run these races. Strategy is part of it. Unfortunately, we just had the bad end of the strateg y today.” Was it bad strategy to not stop on that quick caution or was it just bad luck? “Well, we don’t know if it’s the final caution. We could have made it. There were a ton of guys that made it that pitted at the same time we did. Usually, we hav e the best fuel mileage. That part I just don’t understand. I can save fuel pretty well. But, I was never alerted to save fuel. So, I assumed that everyone was going to have to pit. I didn’t even think it was a question. Like I said, I did my job.” Can you take any consolation in the fact that you dominated most of the race, or will you think about this Monday? “Well, it’s a double-edged sword because if you run terrible all day and you finish 12th, you salvage something out of it. Knowing that we had a very, very good points lead with 15 or 20 to go that quickly diminishes, it hurts. It hurts when you have a car that can possibly win. So for me, I wasn’t aware that anyone was going to try to stretch it and make it. Mike (Ford, crew chief) didn’t make me aware that anyone was going to stretch it and make it so I went out there and ran as hard as I could. Unfortunately, our car didn’t have as good of fuel mileage as everyone else’s.” How have you been able to get more speed in the second half of the Chase? “I press the gas down harder. I mean, like I said, I told y’all I was going to step it up, and I’m doing what I said I was going to do.” Do you have a ‘control-alt-delete’ system in your head or will you need a patented Coach Gibbs pep talk to move forward? “I feel I’ve done a good job of that this year. I won’t need a pep talk. Of course, I’m going to be disappointed for the next couple hours. But trust me, when I get home, I’m done with it. I’m going to move on and try how to figure out how to win next week. This is fuel for me.” Do you feel your results at Homestead will work in your favor next week? “If you look at stats, yeah, it’s good. It looks good for us. If you look at history, it looks good for us. But, you never know what c an happen. This stuff that happened today can happen next week and you can’t control it. We just hope to have a clean race next week and the best car win. That’s all that we can ask for to crown the champ. That’s the thing, is I’m proud that we’ve stepped up our performance like we have over these last few weeks. It’s very proud for me to be able to do that. So, I’m just going to continue to keep digging as hard as I can go and try to beat those guys. It’s going to be tough. Those guys are going to be good. We see that every week. They’re top-five. As far as I’m concerned, it’s going to take a win.
MIKE FORD, crew chief, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Did you discuss saving fuel with Denny Hamlin during the closing laps? “No, it wouldn’t have made that much of a difference — you weren’t going to save that amount of fuel. Had you pit when the other guys pit there, we were still short. Give up that track position and then try and save, you’re not moving forward any way and you’re going to end up probably further back at the end. It was two bad spots for cautions to fall for us.” Are you confident heading into the season- finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the points lead? “It’s pretty straight forward. You go down there and go for a win. We’ve run well there, we won the last time there. We came off a mile-and-a-half win last week, so I’m very confident in our package. It’s going to be an exciting, close race. It’s one of those races where it’s going to come down to the end and we’re going to have to make the right decision.” Can you talk about having a dominant car and then the finish of today’s race? “It was encouraging, that was the best we’ve ever run here at Phoenix. We had a good car and quite frankly that salvaged the day. Had we not been way out front it would have been harder to gain spots and we probably wouldn’t have the points lead still if we didn’t have a good car. That was very encouraging. The mileage deal is discouraging. Our mile-and-a-half program is fairly close to where it needs to be, but here today it was not. Discouraging but to come out of here, we could have — those results on the board could have been straight up racing from what we’ve run here in the past. You can’t wish it to be any different. The situation is what it was and I feel like we made the most of that situation to still maintain the points lead.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 13th
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 15th How was your race? “We started out a little too tight, but we were good and drove up to the front. We just continue to lose grip and faded. Still we put ourselves in position for a top-10 with our strategy until we cut a tire down leaving pit road. That’s just kind of how our year has been. We’ll try to regroup and get back after it next week in Homestead.”
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Little Debbie/Safeway Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 22nd
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 26th
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 TUMS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 26th How was your race? “We just missed it today. The No. 00 TUMS Toyota held on early, but as the race went on we just kind of lost the handle on it. We were loose in and off, tight in the center all day and we just never got much of a chance to work on it any under caution to make it any better. That was a tough day and one I didn’t enjoy very much. I appreciate my guys sticking with me today and giving it all they had, but I just think we missed it today. We wanted to put together a great finish in our final TUMS race of the season, but it just didn’t work out today. I’d like to thank them for their support this year. We look forward to working with them again next season. We’re going to go back and try to finish the season out as strong as we can next week at Homestead-Miami.”
KASEY KAHNE, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 30th
SCOTT SPEED, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 35th
ROBBY GORDON, No. 7 MAPEI/Menards Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports Finishing Position: 33rd
MIKE BLISS, No. 55 Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports Finishing Position: 39th
LANDON CASSILL, No. 64 Empire Steel Toyota Camry, Gunselman Motorsports Finishing Position: 40th