TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Post-Race Notes & Quotes
Talladega Superspeedway – May 5, 2013
Michael Waltrip (fourth) was the highest finishing Camry driver in Sunday’s rain-delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway.
Camry drivers Martin Truex Jr. (seventh) and Matt Kenseth (eighth) also recorded top-10 finishes.
Kenseth led a race-high 142 laps (of 192) at the 2.66-mile superspeedway.
Denny Hamlin started in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Camry for the first time since suffering a back injury at California’s Auto Club Speedway in March. Hamlin yielded his seat to replacement driver Brian Vickers during the first caution on lap 25, but Vickers was involved in a 16-car accident on lap 44 and went on to finish 34th.
Other Camry drivers in the field included David Stremme (12th), Clint Bowyer (18th), Bobby Labonte (20th), Kyle Busch (37th), Travis Kvapil (38th), Joe Nemechek (39th) and David Reutimann (41st).
Along with Kenseth’s 142 laps led at Talladega, Camry drivers Truex and Labonte each led five laps on Sunday.
With 152 laps led by Camry drivers on Sunday, Toyota has now paced 1,791 circuits (of 3,182) during the NSCS season — more than 56 percent of all laps run in 2013.
Three Camry drivers are currently in the top-12 in the unofficial NSCS point standings — Bowyer (fourth), Busch (ninth) and Kenseth (11th).
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 Aaron’s Alabama National Championship Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 4th
How was your race today?
“We had a great run. Rodney (Childers, crew chief) made a great call there at the end to get those tires. I had run a long time on my left sides and that got me the track position that I needed and that was his call. And then he said, ‘I think you’re out of tires, my friend. Come in here.’ And I said, ‘Okay, you’re the boss. I’ll do just that.’ But A.J. McCarron signed our car celebrating Alabama’s 15 national championships and, of course, their one in 2012. It’s a great feeling to be able to race the Aaron’s car. We’ve been together for 14 years. We’ve been together a long time and I hope we stay together a lot longer because I love representing Aaron’s and being a part of the Toyota family. Fun day for me. I don’t get to do this very often and to be able to hop in a car and — I’m a TV guy and I got to learn what these boys are doing and you know what? They’re crazy out there. They go all over the place.”
Does your experience help at this track?
“Well, I’ve got my days in me still. I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”
What did you learn in today’s race?
“You give those Cup guys a half of an inch and they will take it. It’s real important for me to understand how aggressive they are before I do something crazy. I’ve got it now, I understand. I had a ball. I love being at Talladega and I love racing.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 7th
How was your race?
“It was a very eventful day. We were in the middle of both of those big wrecks and we managed to make it through both of them which was great — that was the key to the day, obviously. Man, it was just back and forth. We ran in the front a lot. I got a speeding penalty on the green-flag stop — hurt us. Turns out the splitter was broke and that’s why I locked up the front tires so bad. We had to cut the splitter off, fight back from that — good thing we got those cautions there at the end — and of course we missed that last big wreck. At the end we had a huge run up the middle. We finished eighth, so I don’t know. You’re always glad to get out of here alive, but we sure did one better today.”
Did you expect another wreck at the end?
“Well, we knew something big was going to happen, especially there towards the end. For us, we were seventh at the rain delay and after, so it didn’t change a whole lot. We just needed a little bit of speed to get that little extra. We could get to third or fourth a bunch of times. We just could never get any further. Led the outside lane a bunch. Just could never quite get to the lead and get back down. Got a little work to do, but anytime you can come out of here in one piece — or sort of one piece — with a decent finish you can’t complain too much. Seventh before the rain, seventh after the rain.”
Could you see at the end of the race?
“Oh yeah, I could see everything. You can’t see much racing these things all day anyway — you’ve got stuff on the windshield. The last — once that last caution came out, from there to the end it was raining a little bit the whole time, so you’ve got the wet windshield, all that speedy dry flying around and it’s like your windshield gets this crappy mist-looking mud on it. Nobody could see that good, but you could see far enough ahead of you and around you to see what was going on.”
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 8th
What happened on the final two laps?
“I don’t know. It was a good run. It was a really disappointing finish. First of all, congratulations to David (Ragan) and David (Stremme). That was cool to see the underdogs go up there and grab one so I’m happy for them guys. Man, I don’t know — Carl (Edwards) just got a rocket restart there and he cleared me down the backstretch. He just got a huge run somehow and I was still second. I thought we still had a shot. I tried to get right on Carl and he blocked, which you should, and we got real wide getting up there in (turn) one because he got me pretty far to the top and I just didn’t watch the runs from them guys way in the back. They just got a huge run up the middle. I saw David (Ragan) at the last minute, but he was going too fast so if I pulled in front of him I was just going to get wrecked so I just had to bite the bullet and try to find a hole, which there wasn’t one, and finish the best we can. So, it was a disappointing ending to the day, but, man, we had a great car again.”
Are you disappointed with your finish?
“It could always be worse I guess. Am I disappointed? Yeah, I’m really disappointed. I mean, right before the rain the first time I felt like I didn’t make the right move there and the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) and 99 (Carl Edwards) got by us. But, I thought I learned a lot from that and I thought I did a much better job the second part of the race. Those two together, I don’t think anybody was going to be able to beat them. So, once they got the pit road penalty and got separated it put us back in contention again. You just don’t know what is going to happen on green-white-checkers. You don’t know what’s going on seven or eight rows back and how far they’re hanging back and how big of a run they can get on the pack. It’s just unpredictable and it’s crazy. So, I had the best restart I could. Jimmie (Johnson) really pushed me good and unfortunately just wasn’t enough. I just couldn’t figure out how to keep it there.”
How tough is it to not win Daytona and Talladega after being so dominant?
“Restrictor-plate racing is tough. Everybody after our great year last year said it’s a strong point. I think it’s a weak point. I feel like I’m not very good at making the right spots. Last year I think we were leading or in the top two in all four green-white-checkers. Everyone has ended under green-white-checkers except I’m not sure about the Daytona 500 since we dropped out. It would be nice if we could race a little bit to the end because I feel like our cars are good enough and our strategy and we can get ourselves in really good places for longer runs. But, green-white-checkers are just really unpredictable.”
Do you just have to play defense when you are the leader in restrictor-plate racing?
“Well, yes and no. Usually, you definitely want to be the leader and I thought I got a good restart. It’s just Carl (Edwards) had a really fast car today and he got that really rocket restart and cleared me and got by me. I was fortunate enough that he got a big enough start where I could get back down in front of Jimmie (Johnson). I still thought we were okay and I don’t know what I would do if I re-did it. I would have to watch it to know everything that happened. I guess I could’ve just stayed at the bottom, but I knew that the middle or the top was going to win the race. I just knew that I didn’t want to be out three-wide. I just got caught out there. I would’ve never dreamed the 34 (David Ragan) and the 38 (David Gilliland) had that much momentum and that much speed and I had about two feet to pull down in front of them, but I knew that they were going to hit me so hard I was going to wreck so I just kind of got stuck in the wrong spot.”
How tough was today with the long rain delay?
“Just thinking about our day it’s encouraging but it’s also really frustrating. I think we’ve led the most laps — I don’t know, four or five times — and fortunate and thankful that we won two races, but I just feel like there’s been a few that I’ve left on the table or we’ve left on the table for whatever reason. Hopefully we can keep the performance up and I can figure out the right things to do there at the end to keep my car in the right spot and we can collect some more wins.”
Do you feel like you let down your team?
“I feel like we’ve got one of the fastest cars more weeks than not this year even though in the organization we’ve got four wins this year — I don’t mean to sound greedy but I just feel like we could’ve had more. I feel like they’re giving me what I need to win especially at the plate races with all of the stuff going on. I just feel like I kind of let everybody down that’s standing here because you take off leading on that green-white-checkered and you come back eighth and that’s always disappointing even though I don’t really know what I would’ve done different.”
Were the conditions on the race track okay after the red flag?
“They were okay. It was plenty dry enough. That was no problem. It was fairly dark. We could see what was going on. I’m not sure how good the spotters could see. I mean, it was fairly dark but it was safe for everybody.”
DAVID STREMME, No. 30 Lean 1 Toyota Camry, Swan Racing
Finishing Position: 12th
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 PEAK Oil Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 18th
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Clorox 100 Year Anniversary Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
Finishing Position: 20th
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 34th
How was it out on the race track?
“It was good. I got to thank all of the drivers — (Juan Pablo) Montoya and (Tony) Stewart and Michael (Waltrip) and (Ricky) Stenhouse that really sacrificed the first part of the race for me and I can’t thank them enough. It means a lot as a driver to have your peers that have got your back like that.”
How did the driver exchange go for you and Brian Vickers?
“The exchange went great. Really, that was about as smooth as it’s went for us. Obviously we’ve had a few repetitions at it. That was about the quickest that I was able to get out so everything went well. I had a checklist in the car with things that I needed to do before I got out to switch over for the next driver. Everything really went seamless and painless.”
How do you feel physically?
“I feel good. Every week I feel a lot better and really this is the best I’ve felt physically in, gosh, months since I felt this good. So, I’m definitely looking forward to going back to full competition next week.”
Were you worried about when the caution was going to come?
“I didn’t mind that part of it. Even if we had to pit for fuel we would’ve gone ahead and done that and just waited for the first caution whether it had been lap 20 or 120, we were going to do it at a caution. Luckily we wanted to be five to six seconds behind the pack and we were. Everything kind of worked out ideally how you would want it to.”
Were you anxious getting back in the car today?
“Yeah, for me the toughest part of every weekend has been watching the cars go off the starting grid and on to the race track for the green flag. I didn’t have to endure that pain this time around, but it is just tough now just having to watch especially this type of racing where it’s so circumstantial.”
How did the deal with Tony Stewart come about?
“Tony (Stewart) actually approached me at my charity event last weekend (in Richmond) and said I want to work with you depending on what your plan is for Talladega. Me and Tony for whatever reason when we stopped becoming teammates, we started becoming teammates. We’ve been closer off the race track and on the race track now that he’s with Stewart- Haas than ever when we were with (Joe) Gibbs (Racing). We’ve got a great relationship and he’s had my back really for the last three years.”
Was it hard knowing you were going to have to drop back and then get out of the car?
“I was enjoying it more than anything because it gave me something to do today. I knew in my head that I wasn’t going to be competing today. I wasn’t going to be in the middle of the pack trying to make passes. It was all about just going through the motions and getting the process of making a comeback — getting that started. This is the first week of a comeback. This is going to be the start of everything so anything that Brian (Vickers) gets us for points today is strictly a bonus and we’re going to start next week in Darlington with our hairs on fire.”
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 34th
Were you nervous for today’s driver change with Denny Hamlin?
“I wasn’t that nervous actually. I think had it been Martinsville, yeah, the pressure would’ve been on to get it done quick. In Talladega you’ve got four minutes and we could do it in under 60 seconds if we had to. I think everyone was pretty calm about it. It went really smooth. Everybody did a great job, everybody did their part. It went as smooth as any one we did. We came out of the pits with a fast race car, drove all of the way to the top-10. We were a couple of spots from the top-five and then Talladega happened.”
What was your view of the accident you were involved in?
“I don’t know. In the moment it was difficult to say. Watching the replay it looked like the 18 (Kyle Busch) turned the 5 (Kasey Kahne) around and at that point I saw that kind of taking place and I was on the far bottom and I went as far left as I could without going through the grass. It’s been raining for three days so if I would’ve hit the grass I would’ve ripped the front of the car off. It would’ve been pointless. I decided early in the incident that going in the grass wasn’t an option so I got as far left as I could get and I went as fast as I could go without hitting the grass and it wasn’t enough. I guess the 83 (David Reutimann) or something got turned and stayed in the gas and drove all the way from nowhere and cracked us in the door. We were literally 10 car lengths past the wreck and I got just drilled in the door. I didn’t even see it coming. I was down in the flat and they were up on the banking so I couldn’t see out of the windshield. They were 30 feet above me. I couldn’t see what was going on. All I knew was just to go as fast as I could and stay as far left as I could and it just wasn’t enough.”
How disappointed are you after being involved in the wreck?
“I hate it for the FedEx guys and the whole team and Denny (Hamlin) more than anything. Everybody did a great job and we had a great car. They’ve been so supportive and I really wanted to finish on a high note and have a good run or a win and then it happened. It’s Talladega. I love racing here, I really do. I’m frustrated right now and I’m frustrated after yesterday and I’m frustrated after today, but I still can’t wait to come back. I love racing here. I love drafting. I have a lot of fun doing it. We went from last all of the way up to seventh in a short period of time and had a lot of fun doing it, but then the big one happened and there was nothing we could do about it and it sucks and is frustrating. I don’t hate the race track. I love the track. I just want to be up there racing for a win right now.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 37th
Are you okay after the accident?
“Yeah, I’m alright. I don’t really know what happened. I know I got in the back of the 5 (Kasey Kahne) and I guess I was trying to go to the outside of him, but he just moved up in front of me and I wasn’t expecting it and I tried to go to the outside of him and before I could get to the outside of him I got in the back of him. I just hate that I caused a hell of a melee for everybody. I hate that. A lot of cars got torn up and it’s way too early in the race to be doing any of those sorts of moves whether he made it or I made it. Just I hate it that we all got crashed in that deal. I don’t know. I think our day is done.”
How was your car up until the accident?
“I thought we had a strong car. I thought our car was really fast and I thought we could get up to the front and I thought I was the guy that was making the outside lane go a little bit and anybody that ever got in front of me kind of slowed it down and our progress went the wrong way. I felt like we were really fast with the M&M’s Toyota.”
TRAVIS KVAPIL, No. 93 Burger King/Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Finishing Position: 38th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 MaddiesPlaceRocks.com Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports
Finishing Position: 39th
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 83 Burger King/Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Finishing Position: 41st