Kyle Busch (third), Martin Truex Jr. (fourth) and Joey Logano (fifth) all earned top-five finishes for Toyota in Monday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) rain-delayed race at Watkins Glen International.
Busch led three times for a race-high 49 laps (of 92) around the 2.45-mile upstate New York road course.
Other Camry drivers in the field at Watkins Glen included Brian Vickers (18th), Bobby Labonte (19th), Casey Mears (20th), Kasey Kahne (26th), David Reutimann (29th), Denny Hamlin (36th), Joe Nemechek (40th), Michael McDowell (41st) and Mike Skinner (43rd).
With the third-place finish, Busch now leads the unofficial NSCS point standings, tied with Carl Edwards with 752 points a piece. Hamlin ranks 12th in the standings and is currently 126 points behind the leaders.
Other Toyota drivers in the top-25 in the unofficial point standings after 22 of 36 races include Logano (17th), Kahne (19th), and Truex (21st).
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 3rd
What happened in turn one? “Just knew exactly what not to do and did it anyway. Just got in there and didn’t think I got in there too fast, but the car just didn’t slow down the way I needed it to and then it didn’t turn the way I needed it to. Saw sprinkles on the windshield, but everybody else made it fine through there. I just screwed up. Can’t say enough about these guys. They gave me a great car, gave me a great piece today. We were one of the best. I’d screw up and those guys would catch me. They’d screw up and I’d kind of pull away a little bit. It was just a matter of how hard can you drive it without screwing up. I felt like we were right there and had a shot to win. I hated to see that last caution. Knew it was going to come down to one corner and I messed it up.”
Was there any contact coming out of turn one? “No, I got that far out on my own first of all, but then when I came back certainly those guys didn’t care to give me any room. I bounced off -- I don’t even know if it was the 9 (Marcos Ambrose) and had to still run through the dirt a little bit and fortunately stayed on the outside of the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) through turn two and he had to give way through turn three and I was able to keep third.”
What was your pit strategy during today’s race? “We tried working through practice and everything, seeing if we could do a two-stop strategy and the more we tried to save fuel the slower I went, so we weren’t too sure that it was going to work for us. But, we made some changes to the car and tried to make sure that we could stay on that two-stop strategy knowing that would help us win the race. Essentially, it didn’t. I guess the guy that won was on three-stop strategy, but it gave us the track position all day. We didn’t have to fight anybody too hard and it seemed like our car was out in clean air much of the day. Whether the three-stop strategy would’ve been any different I’m not sure, but the guys did a great job making sure we could do it on two and I had to do what I could under yellow to try to save a little bit of fuel. We weren’t too worried there at the end. We ended up getting better fuel mileage than we expected to just because when I got out and had an eight second lead I could kind of run my own pace and shift early and stuff like that to try and save a little bit more.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 4th
What happened on the final restart? “I’m not really sure exactly how the last restart went. All I know is I was three-wide so I was kind of paying attention to the guys around me and not so much what happened up in front. I know I saw Kyle (Busch) way out off the curb off of (turn) one so I knew he was in trouble, and they were two-wide under him I guess. I was just glad to get out of there alive. I was a little nervous that last three-white checker. We were a little close in fuel and we know how people lose their minds a little bit on green-white checkers. We were fortunate to get a decent restart there and came out with a fourth-place, which is where we were before the caution. We made out okay, proud of all of the guys on the NAPA Toyota today and everybody at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) for working so hard this year, sticking with it and working hard. We’re getting closer. Today was a lot of fun. The NAPA Toyota was fast, just needed a little bit more. We were right there on the leaders all day long, just couldn’t quite get to them. We’re getting there.”
Were you happy with your race car today? “We were just off a little bit today on the longer runs. In the short runs and in the middle part of the run we were as good as anyone. Just started a little too tight and ended a little too loose. Real good through the middle section. Awesome job to all of these guys. Race strategy worked out perfectly and our car was really fast. Just needed a little bit more.”
Are you happy to get the race in today? “I’m happy to get it through. Now I can go and do some fishing this week. I have a little vacation planned so it’s a day shorter than it was going to be, but I’m just proud of all of the guys on this NAPA Toyota, everybody who supports this team and keeps it going. The guys at the shop are working really, really hard here. We’re trying to get our stuff better and we’re inching up on it. Thanks to all of those guys and Michael (Waltrip) and Rob (Kaufman) and everybody. Just keep on digging and hopefully this will be a little bit of momentum for us.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 5th
What happened on the final restart? “It worked out perfect. Every restart I started on the outside and thought if I could maintain on the outside and not lose a spot that was a good restart for me. Finally, on the last one we got to start on the inside and I’m like, ‘Oh, this is going to be good.’ I was able to have a good start and get it three-wide with the 14 (Tony Stewart) and the 1 (Jamie McMurray) and everyone just overdrove the corner and I was like, ‘Where is everybody going.’ And, they all just went up the race track and we were able to capitalize and get a few cars there. It was good. We had fun out there. Max Papis helped me a ton this weekend so I owe a lot to him on making myself a better road course driver. I had fun with it today. It’s the first time I’ve ever had an uneventful Watkins Glen race on the Cup side at least. So, a good weekend. A third yesterday and I think today we finished fifth. Good day for our Home Depot car.”
How does it feel to earn a top-five at Watkins Glen? “It feels good. Sixth in Sonoma and fifth here. I’m pumped up about it. All of my guys have been doing great lately and this momentum, it carries from ovals on to road courses and any other track we go to. I’m looking forward to every time we get to unload this bad boy and try to win something with it.”
What has allowed you to become a quality road racer? “There’s been a lot of things. Obviously our cars. They have done a really good job. All of the guys back at the shop have built us a new road course car this year and we ran the same car at Sonoma where I got sixth and a fifth here. Our car was really good and Max Papis has been helping me out as a driver a lot. Just figuring out how to drive these road courses. It’s helped out a lot. I had two really good races this weekend with the Nationwide race and the Cup race. The GT race didn’t go the way I wanted it to, but it was definitely a good run for our Home Depot car. We’ve been running great lately. Last week we didn’t get the finish that we deserved for the way we ran and that momentum carries over. Obviously, it carried over from an oval to a road course this weekend and we’re going to carry it on to next weekend.”
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Capital DPO/Summit Trust Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 19th
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 20th
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 29th
Where are you hurting the most after the wreck on the final restart? “My pride mostly. Something came in and kind of got into the uniform and ripped a hole in it there. So, something flew in there and got a hold of my shin and ate it up a little bit. I’m not exactly sure what, but just not a very good day for us. I’ve got to thank everybody at Aaron’s, Best Western and Tums and the guys at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) for building me safe race cars. Just a pretty dismal day all day and didn’t look like we were going to finish all that well, but I didn’t figure we were going to finish that bad. Disappointing. Didn’t really need to happen unfortunately, but that’s just how it goes.”
How hard of a hit was that? “This is one of the bigger hits I would say, but it’s part of the gig. You sign up to do this stuff every once and a while and you’re going to hit something. As fast as we’re going, you hit stuff pretty hard. I’m good and will be ready for Michigan next week. I’m thinking where I hit would probably be a good place for SAFER barriers. So, maybe we should look at that next time we come back. Overall, I’m okay and ready to get out of here.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 36th
How do you feel after the wreck? “I feel better than I thought I would. It felt like it was slow motion for me, but can’t say enough for all the safety precautions NASCAR takes and obviously the wall helped a lot getting that dampened the hit a little bit. Really encourage all these drivers to go to seven-point safety belts. I had those and it just really softened the blow quite a bit. A lot of these guys run five-point and it’s just not enough. It’s a testament to all the safety stuff that we have.”
Was the throttle hung? “No. Throttle didn’t hang. Something blew out in the left front and when it did it must have cut a brake line, so I had no brakes. I was trying to do everything I could to weave or anything I could to get speed out of the car, but just nothing you can do -- front tires locked up and you can’t steer. It’s a shame. Our FedEx Ground Toyota was really good all day. We were going to be right there about fourth or fifth in line on this restart, but it wasn’t meant to be today.”
How hard was that hit? “The only thing really maybe harder was the Talladega one I had when I had the concussion a couple years ago. That was about the worst. This was just terrifying because you know there’s nothing you can do and you’re headed straight for the fence. That was the scariest I’ve been in my car.”
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 NEMCO Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 40th
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 66 HP Racing LLC Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports Finishing Position: 41st
MIKE SKINNER, No. 60 Big Red Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 43rd