TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Post-Qualifying Notes & Quotes
Bristol Motor Speedway – March 14, 2014
1st, DENNY HAMLIN
3rd, MATT KENSETH
7th, KYLE BUSCH
15th, CLINT BOWYER
18th, COLE WHITT
33rd, ALEX BOWMAN
38th, BRIAN VICKERS
40th, RYAN TRUEX
41st, PARKER KLIGERMAN
42nd, JOE NEMECHEK
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 1st
How did a lap of 14.76 seconds feel around Bristol — a new track record?
“It’s fast — it’s faster than I ever imagined going around this track. Every new rule change we have just makes these cars go a little bit faster. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) just made an excellent call with our adjustments and the team stepped up. We were pretty strategic in how we executed that qualifying session and (Brad) Keselowski obviously had some laps on his tires put one down there. We thought that it was going to be one and done for us — we felt like one good effort in that final round, but luckily we didn’t have to go back out there. I’m not sure we would have even made it in on time. Our FedEx Freight Toyota Camry — I was way more excited about it in race trim than I was qualifying. Our car was super consistent, didn’t fall off — it’s everything that you need to win a race here.”
How important is it to get a pole this season?
“It obviously gives you a great start to the weekend for obvious reasons — it’s been documented and every pole winner says that the number one pit stall and all the good stuff that comes with it. Ultimately, our job is to get our car better for race trim tomorrow and I was really pleased with it today in race trim. The qualifying stuff kind of caught us a little off guard. We didn’t make but one mock run at the very end of practice because we were working on race stuff so much. Obviously this is a great start to the weekend at a track where we believe it’s a great opportunity for us to get a win and put ourselves in a Chase spot.”
Is it the tires or the new rules on the cars making them so much faster at Bristol?
“A little bit is the tire, a lot of it is the car. It just kind of depends on where NASCAR wants to go with these cars in the future. If they want to continue to make them faster and faster or are they going to make wholesale changes like we’ve talked about or we’ve heard about where they slow them up a lot in the years coming up. It’s always good to set a track record. I remember watching (Ryan) Newman get in the 14’s for the first time back in the day and I couldn’t believe watching a lap with my eyes on TV how fast it looked. Then obviously now we’re setting the bar and we’re going to continue to break track records everywhere we go being that we keep adding downforce to the cars and with this no ride height rule it opens up some things for the teams to do to make the cars faster. It’s going to continue to keep falling as long as the rules allow us to push our cars to keep going faster.”
Does this qualifying effort by Joe Gibbs Racing help and how are things with intermediate tracks?
“The intermediate stuff — it will come. This obviously doesn’t fix anything from last week — this is a totally different beast and a half-mile track, first one of the year. Short tracks — we can make up a little bit here and there being that mechanical grip is the biggest factor. It’s not about big engines and things like that although you have to have all those things to be fast you still kind of rest on your normal ideas when you come to short tracks. We’ll get the other stuff figured out. We had a great debrief last week I feel like on Vegas. That’s all it takes is you continue to communicate and I didn’t like last year how fast our team started out the year. When you set out honestly like what Penske has done early this year and the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) truthfully, it makes the competition really, really scratch their heads and start finding where we need to be. I’m okay with easing into the year and we’ve done that with our 11 car a lot throughout my career. Kind of figuring out where we need to be and finding that in the summer months not necessarily right now.”
Is Joe Gibbs Racing on what Penske has figured out in these qualifying sessions?
“Honestly, I don’t think that Penske really had things figured out as far as the strategy for the sessions — I think their cars were just so fast that they were able to do what we did this weekend. They went out there and they never had to make a second run in any session as far as to advance to the next session. They always had the freshest tires, the coolest car because they would make their run really early in every session and we would too, but we would just be too slow and wouldn’t make the cut so we’d have to make another run, the car gets hotter, the tires get older and if we did make it then we enter the next session with a hotter car, older tires and we don’t stand a chance. I really think that their cars just have so much speed right now that they can pretty much do anything they want. The 2 (Brad Keselowski) right there had a total of like six laps on his tires and still ran right about the same thing that we did. They’ve got a lot of speed and when you have a car that has speed then you have the confidence to go out there at any time you want and know that this lap is going to put you in the next session.”
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Home Depot/Husky Tools Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 3rd
Did you enjoy knock-out qualifying more without the cool down laps?
“It ended up good for us. I didn’t get a good lap our first time out there and we definitely weren’t going to make the top-12. The second time out we did so it was nice that we were able to cool the motor down and make another run. It worked out better for us and I think overall it was more interesting because everybody got in line and was worried about the bubble or you knew they were going to make a lap and you didn’t have to wonder, ‘Hey, is that guy rolling out there to putt around to cool his motor?’ It was a lot more interesting and I sat there and watched it when I wasn’t on the track on my Fan View thing. I thought it worked out better.”
What has Joe Gibbs Racing been able to learn about this qualifying format compared to Penske?
“We’re working on it. Without opening a can of worms, it’s my understanding that they (Penske Racing) got to do a lot of testing — I think they’ve been to all three tracks with their ‘satellite teams’ — Michael McDowell and cars like that I think in the Penske trailer. I think they’ve gathered a lot of information at all these tracks and was really prepared when the season started. It really shows because the first three races they’ve been the best two cars on Friday for qualifying and they’ve been pretty darn good in all the races too. We haven’t really had that luxury so we’ve been trying to look into that and figure out how we can get a little more track data gathered.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Skittles Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 7th
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Starting Position: 15th
What was your assessment of qualifying at Bristol?
“My assessment is that I wasn’t fast enough. It’s really cool I think as a fan of all this, I think it’s really exciting to see the knock outs and trying to keep track of all this mayhem is a lot of fun. We were just a little bit off. The difference between a little bit off and a lot off is not much — you’re talking hundredths or thousandths of a second on a track like this.”
How was the car in qualifying?
“Well I thought we might have had it but we just missed the top-12 by a couple hundredths. Any time you’re that close it’s good. We’ve been in the ballpark with our 5-hour ENERGY Toyota each week and that’s encouraging.”
COLE WHITT, No. 26 Speed Stick Gear Toyota Camry, Swan Racing
Starting Position: 18th
ALEX BOWMAN, No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Starting Position: 33rd
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Starting Position: 38th
What happened on the qualifying run?
“That was a tough run. We just couldn’t find any grip out there so that is about as fast as it will go. We have tomorrow to work on it and get it ready for Sunday.”
RYAN TRUEX, No. 83 Borla Exhaust Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Starting Position: 40th
PARKER KLIGERMAN, No. 30 Swan Energy Toyota Camry, Swan Racing
Starting Position: 41st
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 66 Land Castle Title Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports
Starting Position: 42nd