Toyota MENCS Atlanta Post-Qualifying Report

Toyota Racing Post-Qualifying Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Atlanta Motor Speedway – February 23, 2018

2nd, Ryan Newman*
3rd, Kevin Harvick*
5th, Brad Keselowski*
*non-Toyota driver

American Muscle

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Snickers Almond Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 1st

How did you feel your car handled today and what part of the racetrack was key to get the pole?
“We seemed to be getting beat on every single run through (turns) 1 and 2. But there, during that final run, I felt we got through 1 and 2 better and I was just like don’t screw up 3 and 4. I felt like 3 and 4 were pretty normal. We were really good through the 3 and 4 end the previous round. I didn’t want to screw that up with some of the adjustments we were making to get this Snickers Almond Camry faster than it was. I can’t say enough about the guys from TRD, M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, NOS Energy Drink, Cessna. It’s cool to be upfront here at Atlanta – hopefully we can keep it. We were in this position last year I believe but want to be here to start on Sunday.”

What does it mean for this Sunday’s race to be your 350th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start with Toyota especially with you having earned Toyota’s first Cup win here?
“The pole run was really good with being able to start up front where we left off last year having strong qualifying efforts each week all year long. Atlanta is a tough place. It certainly isn’t easy, you have to able to make sure you bide your time here with the tires and everything. Going through three rounds of qualifying is a challenge and it certainly was for us. But we got it right there on the last round and were certainly were able to hit a good lap there on the last one. We got everything we needed out of the racecar, so we certainly were glad the time popped up when it did to put us on the top of the sheet and we’re looking forward to Sunday.”

Is there strategy to why you are only running Truck and Cup this weekend?
“It was certainly on my radar to try to run the Xfinity (NASCAR Xfinity Series) race here, unfortunately we didn’t get the sponsorship package put together in time. We tried to push the sponsors into running Atlanta here but they chose Kentucky in the fall so they had more opportunity to activate. This sport is sponsor driven and only having seven opportunities here to go run these races; it’s kind of harder to find good opportunities that will present themselves. Fortunately we have good partners to help us in this regard running the Truck race here still. Hopefully we can score a victory in that race and have my first Truck victory at Atlanta for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Although, I have had many victories here with Billy Ballew Motorsports. Looking forward to running the double with Truck and Cup. It certainly is a bit slower than having to run all three. I certainly been a lot more tired than I am right now but today was a good day.”

Who would you say is your chief competition here?
“No clue. It doesn’t matter yet. Anybody that practiced earlier today in race trim, it’s so green, I don’t even know if that means anything. With all the rubber that was able to be put down today, we never even made a run in that top lane. We made all of our runs in qualifying. It was too dirty earlier today, it wasn’t even blown off yet. The Trucks did that a little bit. The Xfinity cars did that a little bit. We’ll continue to see things change tomorrow with some more qualifying and Happy Hour for the Cup guys. We’ll have to figure it out tomorrow once we see the time sheets from tomorrow afternoon.”

How does it feel to win the pole here?
“Feels good, I don’t know why we have to rewind. Certainly that was one that we didn’t want to see happen that day. Qualifying up front at Atlanta is important. It’s so hard on tires here, you don’t want to roll back on tires and pass a lot of cars. You want to take care of your cars and keep your tires on for 500 miles. Even though you get tire changes, having to come from behind is harder to do than protect the position you already gained. So today getting to qualify on the pole is good. Last year we qualified on the pole a lot. We qualified I think eight times on the pole. That was the best qualifying effort from me on the year and I want to keep it going.”

Is the pole here showing the competition you have to get on the same level as the 78-car?
“Certainly the 78 pushed all of us at Joe Gibbs Racing to get better. We knew they had the same stuff and were kind of underperforming if you will. We did all of our work through the second-half of the year last year. I actually thought we had a shot to beat him at Homestead. We’re hoping to get to Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Auto Club and pick back up where we left off last year, and so far so good. I have no clue how we’re going to race. I’ve either been feast or famine here. I’ve been upfront with a chance to win or worse. There is no in between for me. So I am trying to get where I can figure this place out but that will probably be short-lived with a repave. But when anyone is good in the garage they raise the competition level. When you’re getting beat, you have to find a way to go out there and find ways that will make your program better, stronger and faster than the guys you’re racing around.”

How big was your 2008 win at Atlanta, and how does it stack up against other wins during your Cup career?
“It was a big win, and on that day it was huge. It was the biggest one of my career. From transitioning from Hendrick Motorsports to Joe Gibbs Racing and Chevy to Toyota and kind of figuring out where my new home was going to be. It obviously was a scary situation for me to be in, not knowing a lot of my surroundings. I was teammates with Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin was certainly a key thing for me. I remember Tony finished second to me that day, so he was right there and was fast all day long. Some tense moments there in the end with lap cars that were slower than me and I kind of got up on their bumper a few times and got them off the bottom because I remember we were just locked in to running that yellow line. Carl (Edwards) was superfast that day too, so we were chasing him for much of the day. First and second back and forth with Carl before he had an engine failure and we were able to take over as the dominant car that day for the rest of the race. Overall was just really happy in that situation to get that relief of being able to win so early in the season, not only for myself, but for Toyota and the relationship I picked up with Joe Gibbs Racing and M&M’s Mars and Snickers that day, too. Cool to look back on all that and see where we’ve come since then. Certainly have gained a lot of family in this relationship over just being friends.”

Are you looking forward to going home to Las Vegas next weekend?
“Certainly looking forward to getting back to Vegas, always do. This year it’s going to mean a little bit more, be a little bit more important to kind of focus on the right things in your race car to be good. You have that (Playoff) race that’s going to be happening there in September. It certainly is a race track that I try to enjoy and run well at, but more importantly win at. I’ve only been able to do that once in 2009. I’d certainly like to be able to get back to those winning ways there of being able to have a fast race car and figure out what it takes to get around there well. It’s the hometown race and I’ll be running all three with the triple out there so it will be chaotic doing all that. Certainly looking forward to that and the challenge it presents.”

Did you think there’d be more inspection issues today with the new Optical Scanning Station?
“I certainly would have guessed there’d be a lot more that they (78 of Furniture Row Racing) wouldn’t have been the only ones. Honestly I have no clue what happened, I don’t have that information on top of my head right now. I’ll have to go back and figure out what they missed out on in being able to get through the OSS, right.”

How has the transition been to the NT1 engine for this year?
“It’s been really, really tough on us so far for the start of the season. Especially with the lateness that we’ve gone and done some of the swapping over having some Elmore engines. It’s been heck on my guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports. They’ve been working three shifts – we have guys working until three in the morning and coming in at seven in the morning to get the things prepared and swapped over. Some of these trucks have Ilmors. We don’t have enough Ilmors – they don’t have enough to ship out to go around. That’s been awesome. We’re kind of shorthanded on some of that stuff. All of our backups – if we had to go to a backup truck – it has all our OEM stuff in it. We just don’t have enough engines right now. We were late to the game with ordering that stuff because we were trying to stick with the OEM. To answer your second question, it’s been unfortunate we can’t get them to be equal. We have been to the chassis dyno, the engine dyno over and over again to submit to NASCAR to show the Toyotas are down on power compared to the Ilmors is basically – our hands are tied behind our back. We are slowly swapping over as much as we can to get to where we need to get to be competitive. This weekend we have two of them that have it and one of them still has the OEM, couldn’t get three done.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 4th

How was your qualifying run with the Camry?
“Honestly, I am very proud of the whole 19 ARRIS Camry group, they did an amazing job today. They knew exactly what we wanted even though we were struggling a little bit to start the day. And they really used the 80 minutes we had in practice to keep getting better and better. And I felt like we really had a shot at the Pole today. I am really proud of the effort – we just have to keep working on it. Hopefully tomorrow we can make the car good from the race and start from there.”

ERIK JONES, No. 20 DEWALT Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 10th

Talk about your qualifying run and what to expect Sunday?
“My DEWALT Camry was a little bit tight through the first few rounds and we were trying to free it up, and we may have gone too far in the last round there. I think our race trim was pretty decent all day, we just couldn’t get a good feel in qualifying. Hopefully we got a good baseline to work off tomorrow.”

JOE GARONE, President, Furniture Row Racing

Furniture Row Racing’s Joe Garone addressed media upon the No. 78 Camry failing inspection at Atlanta:
“Look, it’s a new process and we’re working hard collectively, the whole garage is, to figure the boundaries out and try to get through. And, NASCAR is working through the equipment the same way and it’s just tough. One time you go through and the next time you don’t. You go through again and some things pass that didn’t pass the time before. It’s just frustrating. But we’ll get it all worked out. It’s just a matter of time.”

What’s the mojo of the team?
“It’s just volatile at the moment. Because you’re trying to figure out what you actually did. When you feel like maybe the equipment itself is off a little bit. But it’s also on ourselves a bit as well. It’s just a weird set of circumstances. The tolerances are very tight, it’s difficult to get through and push where you need to and be conservative where you need to and figure that out. It does change every time you go through.”

We heard the car didn’t actually scan?
“Well, the best that I know, but I heard the same thing. I wasn’t actually there in the scan.”

Did you choose not go out a fourth time?
“We were out of time. That wasn’t a decision other than a timing decision. You know what happens when you rush, a driver goes out amped up, and it’s not worth doing.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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