Hamlin takes Toyota to the win at Bristol 500

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Camry driver Denny Hamlin earned his third victory of the season in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway.

Victory lane: race winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota celebrates
Victory lane: race winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota celebrates

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Hamlin led the field five times for 70 laps (of 500) to claim his 20th career NSCS victory, his 17th win driving a Toyota and his inaugural NSCS win at the Tennessee 'bull ring.'

Hamlin's victory marks the 200th NSCS win for the No. 11 car in NSCS competition.

This is the sixth victory of the season for Camry drivers, and 45th since Toyota joined the series in 2007. Camry drivers Brian Vickers (fourth), Kyle Busch (sixth), Clint Bowyer (seventh) and Joey Logano (eighth) also earned top-10 finishes at Bristol.

Other Camry drivers in the field included Martin Truex Jr. (11th), Bobby Labonte (14th), Travis Kvapil (18th), Landon Cassill (24th), Jason Leffler (31st), David Stremme (37th), Joe Nemechek (39th) and Mike Bliss (43rd). Four Camry drivers are in the top-15 in the unofficial NSCS driver point standings following Bristol -- Truex (fifth), Bowyer (sixth), Hamlin (eighth) and Busch (13th).

Saturday night's NSCS win by Hamlin completed a weekend sweep for Toyota at Bristol with Tundra driver

Timothy Peters winning Wednesday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and Logano winning Friday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 1st
How does it feel to win at Bristol? "This is such a great feeling. Darian (Grubb, crew chief) came here with a different setup and it just hauled the mail right from the get-go. It's been a long time since I've been this competitive at Bristol. This is just a big win. I don't know how else to explain it other than it's the night race at Bristol."

How were you able to make the pass to take the lead? "You did what you had to do -- the only thing you could do was slide in front of somebody. You still had the old Bristol -- it's still one line and you had to knock someone out of the way to make them move. Our car worked so phenomenal on the bottom all day. We made most of our passes without touching a sole. I knew I had to get up front as soon as possible in case the caution came out so we were able to restart first. Big day, big win -- just thank everyone from Toyota."

Is Bristol a track where you always wanted to get a win? "You dream about winning at this place and I've come so close -- I've led on the last lap at this track and never won. That part of it is so frustrating. It's been a couple years since I've been this competitive at this race track, but Darian (Grubb, crew chief) came up with an awesome setup this weekend and out car just took off right from the get-go."

How were you able to make the pass on Carl Edwards? "I knew I had to do everything I could just to slide up in front of him. It was my only chance. I knew if there was any chance of us having a caution, I was going to get on the inside because he was going to take the outside so I had to take the lead as soon as possible. That's the way Bristol racing is supposed to be -- rooting and gouging."

Did this feel like the 'old style' of racing at Bristol? "It's tough to say. Honestly. It's just a different kind of racing. There's nothing he's going to do that's going to make us run the bottom, that's not the fastest way around the track. But it was the same thing -- we were all running in the line, and just waiting on the next guy to screw up to get around. So, that 's what you've got to do at the old Bristol and that's exactly what we had to race today. You couldn't just -- the slide job was an option to pass, which, you know, that's won us the race. But I think it is -- I mean, I don't think that we saw as much side-by-side racing but you didn't see side-by-side racing with the old Bristol. You saw a bunch of cars waiting in line to get knocked out of the way or mess up, and that's the same thing we had today."

What does it mean to earn the 200th win for the No. 11? "You know, we have been thinking about it for a long time. It's big because it's my 20th, 200th for the car, and you look at the names, Ned Jarrett and those guys that have driven number 11 -- I'm just a spec on that stat sheet of wins for this number. But you know, hopefully by the time I'm done years down the road, whoever takes the 11 after that will try to live up to what we accomplished. Who knows where it ends, but this is a number that it's been big in NASCAR history. It's been connected to a lot of championships. It's big for me. It was my number when I grew up. When I grew up, my very first race car when I was 16 years old was a purple and white number 11, so I'm driving it today."

DARIAN GRUBB, crew chief, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing How big is this win in terms of your Chase position? "Every week we felt like we had a good car, but circumstances took us out of that, or engine failure, mechanical failure or something like that going on in the background. We had fast race cars and we are doing the work that it takes to stay up front each week and once you do that, you had the possibility to win. Guys have been doing really a great job behind us in the background with TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and Joe Gibbs engineering support, and doing a great job making sure we don't have those issues again. Hopefully, we can keep staying up front and running top -ten."

Do you feel the team is poised to be strong contender in the Chase? "I really think so. You don't want to count your eggs before you put them in the basket type thing, but it's a lot of hard work. All the way since December when I came in, I've been learning every day -- the engineering staff and the mechanics, they teach me lessons and I teach them lessons. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel on the things we have been working on and you know we are getting stronger as we do it. So, just knowing that that work each week means faster race cars and Denny's (Hamlin) confidence gets better each week when we bring more of those things to the race track, that tells you that you're going to have a chance to win it. And even after we won the race there at Phoenix, we thought, 'Man, we are going to be pretty stout.' And since then we have been making things better and making the cars better and his feedback has been getting better and better about what we are doing. So, hopefully we can take all those things and just keep getting better and not slow down."

BRIAN VICKERS, No. 55 MyClassicGarage.com Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 4th
What was the run like you had on Carl Edwards to try and take the race lead? "I tried to pull a slide job on Carl (Edwards) -- I gave it all I could, but it wasn't enough. I'm still really happy with a fourth-place. Obviously, pleased, but not satisfied. I'd loved to have won this thing and I think we had a shot at it. My 55 Toyota ran great all night. It was a track position race. At first I wasn't too sure about the track changes but then there at the end, it got pretty wild and got pretty hairy. It reminded me of the old Bristol watching the races way back when. There was another track very similar to this up north where we used to run Hooters Pro Cup and it was a high-banked half-mile and you ran wide open right around the top and it reminded me a lot of that."

How were you able to save the car when you tried to make the pass? "I almost slid myself all the way to last place. The guys did a great job on the MyClassicGarage.com Toyota -- it was great. It was good all night -- it was just tough to pass. It got exciting there at the end once the bottom got rubbered in. You could move around a little and slide-job guys. It was tough."

Were you surprised the top groove was fast? "I don't think anyone saw this coming. We heard some guys go up top where they ground it down in the test and all but wrecked every single time they did it. Then low and behold we come back here for the race and it's two-tenths faster than the bottom. No one expected this -- I give Bristol credit, they tried to make a change. They took some courage to do that. I don't know if it worked out or didn't work out, but it made a big difference from what we saw in the spring race."

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 6th How was your race tonight? "Our night was decent. I think I screwed us up in practice -- just not getting the right setup underneath the car. I took our guys in a little bit of the wrong direction there so I hate it for them. We had an M&M's Camry capable of getting a better finish tonight. We fought hard, we did all we could and Dave (Rogers, crew chief) made some really good calls throughout the race to get us better track position, as well as a better handling car to at least try to pass guys. Other than that, it was just a fight for the top."

How do you feel about your position in the Chase 'wild card' standings? "You'd rather have wins, so you're more stable with win s. I think you have to get that second win if there's a Chase guy that falls out -- like I think (Brad) Keselowski had a bad night tonight and (Tony) Stewart had a bad night tonight, so if those guys fall out they will have to rely on a 'wild card' spot and then we're not looking too good."

How did your car handle tonight? "We were just so slow in the middle of the corner. Everybody was just running over me. There the last couple runs I could protect myself for the first 20 or 30 laps, but after that I would back into people. The 15 (Clint Bowyer) was all over me -- he cut me a lot of slack the last 30 laps. We used to have something that we haven't been able to catch on to the last couple times here. It's a little frustrating in that regard. Whether it's me leading our guys in practice or whether it's us making the right adjustments on race morning -- we just haven't hit it."

CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 7th
How was your car tonight? "We had a great 5-hour ENERGY Toyota tonight. We could run the high or low groove and ran through the field a couple times. We got down towards the end and I was hoping to make up a little more ground then we did, but we are thinking big picture right now. No mistakes. So we gave it as much as we could while making sure to bring it home in one piece. Overall a single digit finish is what we were after and that's what we got. I don't know what the points look like, but I'm hoping we are in a good position after next week in Atlanta."

JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 8th
How was your race tonight? "This was the most frustrating race I think I've ever been a part of -- you just couldn't do anything. I had a good car in the beginning of the race and the track changed and we tried to keep up with it. We just couldn't keep up with it and get the car as good as we needed it to be after everything has changed. Then I started on the inside every single time, which is the end of the world because you lose about five spots every single time. If you're lucky you might lose one or two. I only started on the outside twice all day, unless I was in the lead. We led a lot of laps -- have to be proud of that. We need to win and anything short of that is not good enough."

Source: Toyota Motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Race report
Tags bowyer, busch, gibbs, grubb, hamlin, logano, toyota, vickers