Camry driver Denny Hamlin won his second race of the season in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Kansas Speedway.
Hamlin led twice for 32 laps in the 267 lap race.
The win marks the first NSCS victory for Toyota at the 1.5-mile track and 41st NSCS win since entering the series in 2007.
Hamlin’s win also marks the 199th win for the No. 11 car in NSCS history, breaking a tie for the most wins all-time with the No. 43 car.
Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. finished second after leading a race high 173 laps at Kansas.
Camry driver Kyle Busch also (10th) also earned a top-10 finish in Sunday’s race.
Other Toyota drivers in the field included Joey Logano (15th), Travis Kvapil (25th), JJ Yeley (31st), Mark Martin (33rd), Landon Cassill (34th), Bobby Labonte (35th), Clint Bowyer (36th), David Stremme (38th), Joe Nemechek (41st) and Mike Bliss (42nd).
Truex moved up to the second position in the unofficial NSCS point standings — now 15 points behind leader Greg Biffle. Camry drivers Hamlin (fifth), Bowyer (11th), Logano (12th) and Busch (13th) are also in the top-15 in the points.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 1st How was your race? “I just can’t thank everyone at FedEx enough for putting this together and putting me in the driver’s seat. Great day for our race team — the pit crew did amazing there on that green flag pit stop. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) made a great call to bring me in one lap early and just a great team effort today. This has been a great weekend and we just had a solid car all week.”
What does it mean to you that this win allows the No. 11 to pass the No. 43 with 199 wins? “It’s kind of a tribute to them. They’re the ones that put this car number on the map — Ned Jarrett and those guys. I was just a small part of that history of this car number. I just hope that I live up to the standards of the number 11 car because there’s been some great drivers drive it and I’m just living on the legacy.”
Did you feel Martin Truex Jr. after being so strong and not winning the race? “You know, at the end it’s a no-lose situation for myself because I’m a fan of Martin’s (Truex Jr.), I’m a fan of Michael Waltrip, and they’ve really done some great things with that program. But, my job is to win for my guys and really drive as hard as I can to get them those wins because they’re so hard to come by now that you have to just do everything you can. And I knew that he was driving his heart out as well as I was driving mine. Once I got to the lead, I felt like I got a little bit complacent mainly on corner entry, just being careful. But, what got me the lead was driving hard, and so I needed to get back to that, and that’s kind of where we were able to stretch it out. But it was a good day for Toyota because Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing has got a bond that’s working better and better together obviously with the common engine package and everything, so we’re starting to see these Toyotas start to make a run.”
Are you surprised the gains that Michael Waltrip Racing has made in such a short period of time? “I mean, surprised, no. They’ve hired some good people over there. They’ve got good drivers over there, and really it’s — I think it’s — I feel like as well as they’re running, we can feed off of them, and when we run well, they can feed off of us. I think there’s only really six big Toyota cars out here, and we’ve all got to work together to all run well, and that’s our main goal is to run well for Toyota and make them a championship contender and a championship manufacturer. I’m not surprised, but it’s good to see that you’ve got some — we can now use some feedback from those guys. It’s tough using feedback from teams that run 20th or so because you’ve got to kind of take it for what it is. But when you have five or six Toyotas all running up towards the front, then you really can start to tune in your program better and better.”
DARIAN GRUBB, Crew Chief, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How important is this win for JGR? “It’s just big for the momentum for the entire Joe Gibbs organization. Everybody is working so hard just trying to improve everything. We’ve had good cars, we got the win at Phoenix and we’ve had consistent good performances but just not the wins that we wanted to get, so going out there and getting that now and working our way up in points, it’s showing that effort that’s going on with the fab shop and the engine shop and those guys doing everything they can do to make everything better. All these details are starting to add up.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 2nd How strong was your race car? “What can I say about this team? All the NAPA guys have done a nice job — MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), Toyota — everybody’s put a lot into this and it’s fun to drive these race cars. Just disappointed right now. We had them. I don’t know what happened with that last set of tires, they were terrible. I couldn’t go at all — was just dead sideways, wrecking. At the end of the run, I was back to being okay again, but by then he (Denny Hamlin) had already passed me and clean air is everything.”
What do you think affected the handling of your car? “I don’t think it was the sun. We put that last set of tires on and it wasn’t anything like it had been all day long — just bad, bad loose for the first 20 laps of that run. Just lost the lead and once you lose the lead, it’s hard to get it back. I was a little better than he (Denny Hamlin) was at the end, but when he’s running where you are, it’s just about impossible to pass him.”
What was your thinking on the final pass attempt at the end of the race? “I was a little bit faster than Denny (Hamlin) at the end but he was running against the wall right where I needed to be and I was just trying to gain a little bit of ground. It was desperation, last-ditch effort, just trying something. There was no chance of me even coming back to making it work.”
Was there anything else you could have done considering the circumstances? “I don’t know. I’d like to try it again. You know, I don’t think so. I mean, I drove as hard as I could. You know, the 11 (Denny Hamlin) gained some ground on the last green flag stop. We had a bit of a cushion. He pitted a lap before we did, we came out side by side and I was able to fight him off. I just was just way too loose from there. I don’t think there’s anything I could have done. I got the lead back after the pit stop, I just couldn’t hang onto it. Car just got too loose right there for those 20 laps or so.”
Do you feel you need a win to show that MWR has caught JGR? “Yeah, winning certainly helps and that’s what we want to do, that’s what we’re here to do. But come September we want to be in the Chase and we want to go after a championship, too. You’ve got to look at the big picture a little bit. We’re not where we want to be obviously. Our other two cars didn’t run as well as we wanted them to today, and that’s probably the first time our cars have ran that different throughout the season, so maybe we’ll look into that a little bit and get a little bit smarter and a little bit better there. But I think if we’re all up front and Toyota is going to be happy, I think that’s a good thing. I don’t think we’re racing each other to be the best Toyota team, we’re racing each other to be the best team in the Sprint Cup Series, it just so happens we’re both Toyotas and we kind of push each other along and get to see a little bit of what each other does and work together to hopefully put all our Toyotas in the front.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 10th How was your race? “We fought hard all day with our M&M’s Camry. All we had was about a 10th-place car and that’s where we ended up. We just kept fighting tight all day. I didn’t want to get it loose because anytime were loose we just lose too much time. So we were just trying to find the balance to set the balance perfect. We tried something a little different this weekend to help us on the long runs and I think that it kind of hurt us just a little bit. We’ll just have to regroup and debrief with Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and get it better for next time.”
DAVE ROGERS, Crew Chief, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing What was the vibration Kyle Busch experienced in the race? “The vibration is a tire vibration. There was nothing wrong with the wheels, all the lug nuts were tight, but throughout the race you heard several drivers talk about vibration. Goodyear does a really good job for us, we’re torturing these tires and if there out around us a little bit, the drivers really feel it. I don’t think there’s much to it. It’s the tire. When you bolt the tire on and it vibrates, and you take it off, it stops vibrating, it’s conclusive that it’s the tire. I’m somewhat sad to see this old asphalt go. This track has a lot of character now, I’m sure the new asphalt is going to bring something new to the sport and we’ll see what it runs in the fall.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 15th
MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 33rd What happened at the end of the race? “We had a really good car today. You won’t see that in the results, but we had a great car. That was a good performance by my team. Something happened under the hood late in the race. It looked like we could finish fifth and that would have been awesome. These cars are a pleasure to drive.”
TRAVIS KVAPIL, No. 93 Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry, BK Racing Finishing Position: 25th
JJ YELEY, No. 49 JPO Absorbents Toyota Camry Finishing Position: 31st
LANDON CASSILL, No. 83 Burger King Toyota Camry, BK Racing Finishing Position: 34th
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Reese Towpower Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 35th What happened to your race car? “It must have broke a rod or piston, or pistons and rods, or whatever. We had some terrible vibration there at one time and we had to pit because something was wrong and then went back out and it was loose. The car filled up with smoke, so I’m figuring the rear tires were full of oil, oil from the oil tank and then the caution comes out and it blows up on pit road. I thought the car was really pretty good before that — before we had to do that extra pit stop. We passed the 31 (Jeff Burton) and we were running pretty good lap times. I think we would have still been on the lead at this point in time. IT’s just unfortunate and not meant to be. The guys do a lot of hard work, it’s just unfortunate.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 36th Are you frustrated to have your day end early? “It was just a major bummer. I’m really upset — I just wish it wouldn’t have happened here. This is the nature of the beast. Unfortunately this happens from time to time. These guys do such a good job with the engine program. They were bringing a good car, you know we were running up front, I think we were a couple adjustments away from at least being part of the game here today. Unfortunately it just wasn’t our day. We’ll regroup and go back after it in Richmond.”
DAVID STREMME, No. 30 Inception Motorsports Toyota Camry, Inception Motorsports Finishing Position: 38th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 41st
MIKE BLISS, No. 19 TriStar Motorsports Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports Finishing Position: 42nd