1st, MATT KENSETH
2nd, DENNY HAMLIN
3rd, CARL EDWARDS
6th, KYLE BUSCH
12th, CLINT BOWYER
13th, DAVID RAGAN
29th, JEB BURTON
32nd, MATT DiBENEDETTO
37th, JJ YELEY
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 1st
Did you expect all the Joe Gibbs Racing Camrys to qualify so well?
“Maybe the one, two, three, but I didn’t think I’d be in the three. This is all about Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and everybody that works on this Dollar General Camry and really everybody in Huntersville (N.C.) that builds these things and TRD (Toyota Racing Development). We were a long ways off Carl (Edwards) in practice and I don’t even know what changes they made, but they changed a lot of stuff that really woke this thing up and had some speed. I knew I got through (turns) one and two good, but Denny (Hamlin) put up such a fast lap and I got into three and I was bound and determined that I was going to make it wide open. I had the first half of the corner, it was the second half that was starting to get exciting. I got sliding up the track and bogged down a little bit. I wasn’t sure that we were going have it, but I have to say thanks to those guys, they gave me a car with a lot of speed.”
Did you expect to be able to hold the throttle for the entire lap?
“I could say it’s because I didn’t get enough sleep. I flew up with Denny (Hamlin) today and he likes to come to everything at the last minute. I didn’t sleep last night thinking that we weren’t going to make it up here so it’s really just for lack of sleep. I get to credit Denny for the pole.”
How strong was the car in qualifying?
“Jason (Ratcliff) and these guys did a great job with our Dollar General Camry. We definitely didn’t have the speed in practice and they made some great changes for qualifying there and got a couple good laps. I messed up turn four a little bit on that last lap, but we just had such incredible speed the rest of the lap that we were able to overcome that and get it.”
What do you expect from the package in Sunday’s race?
“This package is so different, it’s really a balance. You have to have a car that’s fast, but you have to have a car that handles good or at least halfway decent around other cars so looking forward to getting out there tomorrow and getting to work. Hopefully putting ourselves in some different positions to try to figure out what we need for a setup to be able to maneuver around traffic and still be fast if we can stay up front.”
What has been the biggest boost to Joe Gibbs Racing in recent weeks?
“I’ll tell you, it’s never one thing for sure, but having Kyle (Busch) back for sure is a big advantage. I always feel like the better your teammates are, the better you run, the harder you work and the better it makes you. It lifts all of our performance and effort and all that stuff up I feel like. Certainly a big boost to the organization when Kyle got back, but just a little bit of everything. I think last year it was obvious that we were a little behind and we’ve been working hard to get out of that and keep getting better. We’re definitely on the right track and we’ve been pretty fast with all the different aero packages, which is a great sign for whatever they decide on. Just have to keep moving forward and hope to continue to move forward and keep getting better here and be good in September when it really counts.”
Can you explain what the team changed from practice to qualifying?
“I really can’t, but if I knew what it was I certainly wouldn’t tell you guys, but I really don’t know because I didn’t look at the changes and I really don’t know what Jason (Ratcliff, crew chief) and the guys came up with to be honest with you. We were a little off in practice and it needed to drive a little bit better and it needed more speed. It usually is that you get one or the other and not both when you get to a place like this where you’re running almost wide open with this package. They did a good job of finding that balance to be just comfortable enough where I could get through there in the gas, but also have it trimmed out enough to have the speed we need to get the pole.”
How much has TRD (Toyota Racing Development) been part of the recent success?
“It’s not just TRD, they’re a partner of ours and they’re a huge part of our successes for sure, but I think it’s everybody at JGR. 2013 was a great year, we accomplished everything we wanted to short of the championship, which was a little disappointing in itself. Then 2014 didn’t meet any of our expectations although Denny (Hamlin) came really close to winning the championship really at the end of the day. It’s all about the people. Any business, sports team or anything certainly starts at the top with Coach (Joe Gibbs, team owner) and there are a lot of good people there whether you’re ahead or behind or somewhere in the middle there. We just have to keep chipping away at it and keep trying to get the stuff better and don’t panic and keep trying to find the middle. Just good people and they’re always working.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 2nd
How was your qualifying effort today?
“Our FedEx Camry was great. I’m really happy with JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), we have fast cars and TRD (Toyota Racing Development has really stepped up and given us some great horsepower this last year. I’m really proud of the effort. I wish I could say I could hold it a little bit more, but obviously with all of our cars up there in the top-six, it’s pretty much a sign that our organization is turning into something right now.”
What will you practice on tomorrow to prepare for Sunday’s race?
“We will do some obviously for sure. The balance does change quite a bit when you’re behind somebody. You want to search for that clean air, maybe it widens the race track out. That’s a possibility as well. I’m interested really to see how much suck up you can get in these cars down the straightaways. It’s going to be a different balance – no question about it going out there wide open, or close to it right now. Probably won’t be the case in race trim. We’ll see how that all plays out.”
How close was it with JGR claiming the top-three starting spots for Sunday’s race?
“We’re fairly close. It always seems like an F-1 type race out there in qualifying and not just our organization is really making strides. Like I said, Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and those guys for what they’ve done. I think that it almost becomes a challenge within yourself to not be the last within your organization. After the first round, when I was fourth of our four cars, it motivates you for sure to make sure you’re not last. We gave a good effort, but the 20 (Matt Kenseth) was a little bit faster there. Setups are similar, I’m sure in race trim though, they will start to spread out and diversify.”
What will JGR’s performance be like when the racing returns to 1.5-mile tracks?
“Hopefully a lot of the same, for sure. We go through a stretch of our season – really these last four, five weeks where they are kind of odd ball tracks and they don’t really relate much to the Chase at all. It seems like now some of these tracks that make a little bit more sense for the Chase, hopefully those are the tracks where our cars really run well at. We haven’t run quite as well in the 11 car as we expect to or some of our teammates did the last month or so. We’re trying to peak at the right time, our motto has always been I have to be right when it comes to September. We’re edging closer to that and hopefully this is a sign of things to come when we get to those tracks in the Chase.”
CARL EDWARDS, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 3rd
How important will practice be tomorrow?
“Practice on Saturday will be really critical. I think it will be most beneficial if we can run in a group. If we don’t run around other cars, it’s just going to be anyone’s guess as to how it goes on Sunday.”
How strong was the car in qualifying?
“Our car is very fast and I’m really proud of all the guys at the shop. We’ve been able to be fast with multiple packages. I didn’t expect for all of us to be this stout here. It is just qualifying and I don’t think anyone knows what’s going to happen in the race. There’s a lot of disturbed air because of the device that they have on these cars. I don’t think anyone knows how they’re going to race in a big group.”
What has been the turnaround at Joe Gibbs Racing in recent weeks?
“It’s amazing. I will tell you what’s cool and it’s one of the first things I noticed when I started at JGR and it’s just how well everyone works together. Everyone within the shop works together, the drivers work together, the crew chiefs work together – TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and Toyota, they’re there every day. It’s a constant push for speed all the time. With leadership like Coach (Joe Gibbs, team owner) and all the good people there – I think the anomaly there would be to run poorly. That would be the rare thing. I don’t see how you can beat a group like that all the time, they’re just amazing people.”
How has the team been so successful with all the different setup packages?
“Our group, we are operating with the attitude that whatever package there is, we’re all just going to go out and we’re going to win with that package, whatever it is. I think that’s the only attitude you can have right now because no one knows what’s going to happen.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 6th
How strong was the car?
“Obviously the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) cars are really fast and the guys are doing a great job. Our Interstate Batteries Camry was fast. In the final round there, it was just a matter of now screwing up or it could have been all top-four. I just got too tight there and didn’t hit the lap perfect and we ended up sixth. We have a good car for Sunday and we’ll keep working in both practices tomorrow and hopefully we can put ourselves in position to win.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Starting Position: 12th
How was the car in qualifying?
“We were way better than we were in practice. Billy Scott (crew chief) and all these guys just keep doing a good job. This is a confidence builder with every day that we work together. That was the first stab at this – it was a completely different setup going into this and we were a little bit too loose to really run that lap and stay committed on the throttle. We’ll be able to work with thistomorrow and get it where I need it and be fast.”
DAVID RAGAN, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Starting Position: 13th
How was the car in qualifying?
“Our Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota was pretty good during qualifying. We were just a little too loose. Man we just missed the top 12 there. I thought we had a top 10 car but I don’t think we had anything for the pole. It would have been nice to see what kind of lap we could have made in the second round of qualifying. I look forward to working on the Aaron’s Toyota in practice tomorrow and I think we have a pretty good car for Sunday.”
JEB BURTON, No. 26 Maxim Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Starting Position: 29th
MATT DIBENEDETTO, No. 83 Burger King/Cosmo Motors Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Starting Position: 32nd
JJ YELEY, No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Starting Position: 37th