Kyle Busch won the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Michigan International Speedway today.
The win was the fourth this season for the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, and the 23rd career NSCS victory of his career.
Busch led the field twice for 22 laps.
The win was the 100th for the Toyota Camry in NASCAR competition. Camry drivers have won 38 NSCS races and 62 NASCAR Nationwide Series races since the start of the 2007 season.
Camry driver Kasey Kahne (seventh) also recorded a top-10 finish at Michigan.
Other Toyota drivers in the field included Bobby Labonte (15th), Brian Vickers (16th), David Reutimann (18th), Martin Truex Jr. (19th), Joey Logano (21st), Denny Hamlin (35th), Casey Mears (37th), Todd Bodine (39th), Joe Nemechek (41st) and Mike Skinner (42nd).
Busch continues to lead the unofficial NSCS point standings. Hamlin ranks 14th in the standings and is currently 59 points behind 10th-place.
Other Toyota drivers in the top-25 in the unofficial point standings after 23 of 36 races include Kahne (17th), Logano (19th) and Truex (21st).
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 1st
What was going through your mind on the last restart with Jimmie Johnson? “Same as the last four weeks in a row -- three or whatever it’s been. Man, you know it’s so awesome to finally win here at Michigan and get Toyota in victory lane here at Michigan. It feels good being so close to Detroit and everything. I can’t say enough about Norm Miller and everybody at Interstate Batteries. This was a flawless Camry and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing -- all these guys on this team. The guys at JGR engine room gave me a great motor today -- great power and great fuel mileage. I think it was running 260 there with about 10 to go for about 10 laps or so and I was like, ‘Man, I hope we make it.’ I had trash on the grill or something. I can’t say enough about Sprint being in the Sprint Summer Showdown. Hopefully, we get a chance at Atlanta to run up front there and win the thing and bring home some extra money for charity, for a fan and for all of us here at JGR.”
How good was your race car today? “The guys did a great job. We unloaded well and we had a fast car, but it would only run the top. I qualified up top and everybody was wondering why. That’s the place I could only make speed on Friday. Yesterday we worked on trying to get it to run around the bottom a little bit, we got really loose doing that so we went back and got it to where I could run the top. Today I could run the bottom and I could run the top. I just had to move around and figure things out. I can’t say enough about the fans, I appreciate their support. It’s great to be here in victory lane in Michigan and we clinched our Chase birth, so I can’t say enough about our folks at M&M’s and again everyone at Interstate Batteries -- we appreciate you.”
How comforting is it to clinch a spot in the Chase championship playoff? “It’s awesome -- that's what we wanted. We wanted to make sure that we could come out here and win races and have the opportunity to go out for broke. There I thought about coming down pit road and I’m like, ‘You know what, we might as well stay out and see if we can’t just get it done and hold the guys off rather than come from behind.’ We felt like that was our given opportunity and our best opportunity to try to win the race. Given we did everything right, we would have been able to come out with it. Again, it’s awesome being here in victory lane -- thanks to Sprint, M&M’s, Interstate Batteries and all our partners.”
How does it feel to win a race at Michigan? “Awesome. It feels really good to win here at Michigan. We've been trying so hard the last few times here. Our teammate's been able to do it, but unfortunately we haven't. Good to put it in victory lane, especially for Norm Miller and everybody at Interstate Batteries. Everybody from Toyota -- this close to Detroit -- they want a win here. Especially the Mars folks, as well. Been a great weekend for us. We unloaded, felt pretty good about things. Qualifying wasn't quite our strong suit. We just ran the top, knowing we could get a good, solid lap. It was only 17th fastest. We tried to work on running a little bit lower yesterday in practice and get things done to the car I could do that with. Kept getting too loose. We just went back to basics and put what we knew ran well in it for today, where we could run the top. Felt really good with our chances. About midway through the race, early we struggled being too tight with the rain and everything last night, wasn't any rubber on the track, but once we got to the end of the race -- got going -- we felt really good with our car.”TOYOTA NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS)
Can you end Jimmie Johnson’s championship run? “You know, we're 13 weeks from me being able to answer your question. Certainly I'd like to give ourselves a lot of credit that we can do that, that we have the ability to do that. I feel like it's anybody's game right now still. Although the 99 (Carl Edwards) had problems today, they can still come back. They're still in the Chase. (The) 99 is going to be tough. (The) 48 (Jimmie Johnson) is going to be tough. (The) 29 (Kevin Harvick) is going to be good. Hopefully, we can get our teammate in there with the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and he'll be good, too. Certainly, it's going to be a run down to the end, a run to Homestead. The points are tight. With any bad day it seems to hurt you so much, you really have to concentrate on battling back, getting yourself back up in the points. For us it's going to come to being about minimizing those bad days and keeping our heads on straight.”
Is your team the one to watch in the Chase? “No. There's way too much that can happen, way too many laps to run, way too many miles to run. Certainly, we've built ourselves into championship contenders this year and that's where our strong suit has been up to this point, it's just being able to be consistent or at least try to be consistent, after our bad days, try to come back and get a top-10, try to minimize the damage from the week before the following week. Hopefully, with the next few weeks that come up, we feel like they're really good race tracks for us. Bristol obviously being one of the best for me, then going to Atlanta not so great for me. I have won there. See if we can't get a good run and win the Sprint Summer Showdown, win money for a fan and my foundation. Going to Richmond, one of my favorites as well, too. There's a great opportunity for us to win three more races before the Chase starts. We'd love nothing more than to see that, of course carry on our strong runs through the final 10 weeks. It's just a matter of being consistent.”
DAVE ROGERS, crew chief, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How does it feel to get this win? “It’s great. Kyle Busch is the most competitive guy I’ve ever worked with. He beat himself more than he should have last week. A better car won. We had the 9 (Marcos Ambrose) beat on pit strategy, but he was the better car, but Kyle still took it personal so this is good vindication for Kyle. What about Interstate Batteries -- our founding sponsor at Joe Gibbs Racing. Finally got a win for Norm Miller, it’s been so long. When I started at Joe Gibbs Racing, Interstate was the only primary sponsor we had. To be a crew chief with the Interstate Batteries Camry today is such an honor – thank you Norm, appreciate it man.”
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Kingsford-Bush’s Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 15th
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 18th
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 19th
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 21st
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 35th
What happened during today’s race? “We were fighting the car all day, from tight to loose and back and forth. Our car just really struggled on corner entry on being loose. I was in a pack of cars there and tried to enter the corner with a little bit more speed and just got too loose and got into the wall.
Which of the three races coming up presents the best opportunity to win and make the Chase? “There’s a lot of good race tracks for us. This is a good race track for us, Pocono is a good track for us. There’s Richmond, there’s Atlanta and obviously Bristol next week that we’ve all run well at all of them. We have to get this ship up and pointing back in the right direction and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to do it. A lot of communication and obviously we have some stuff we have to work on but we’ll get through it and we’ll try to get in there these last three races.”
What did you talk to your crew chief about post-race? “It just seems like we’ve been very fortunate that the guys around us either haven’t won a race or on days we struggle they have a bad race. Any other circumstances and we’d be in big trouble right now, but I’m still glad to be in our spot than anyone else’s at this point. We just need to figure out how to finish races and that carries on my shoulders as much as it carries on anyone’s.”
How is your confidence right now? “Obviously, our confidence isn’t as good as what the 18 (Kyle Busch) is at this point. At this point last year, we had a lot of confidence. The cars, in my opinion, were really easy to drive for me and the 18 has taken what we’ve learned over the last year and they’ve applied it and are running better than anyone right now. We’ve got to figure out what we can adapt these race cars to me to be a little bit better for this season and it’s going to take a lot of hard work to do that.”
Are you confident you’ll be able to turn your team around and be effective in the Chase? “I won eight races last year, I’m pretty sure that I’m capable. Mike Ford (crew chief) is capable and the team itself. You know, you look at every driver’s career who were second to Jimmie Johnson -- these kind of years happen. It hasn’t happened to me in five years. This is the first time where I’ve struggled and we’re struggling to find the balance of the car that I want. Mike is struggling to find what I need to put what he needs to put in the car for me to run well. It’s just a part of it. Kyle Busch won eight races, failed to make the Chase the next year. It’s just part of learning. I’m not going to make any excuses and I’m not going to sugar-coat it because it’s on me to try to get better at this one.”
What would it mean if you didn’t make the Chase for the first time in your career? “That’s part of the sport. How many Super Bowl teams don’t make the playoff the next year? It’s just so hard because any time you’re on top -- and in our sport there’s 42 guys that are hungry to beat you. It’s so hard in this sport, especially with as close as our cars are, as close as the driver talent is nowadays -- one small thing that’s a buckle in your program gets exploited by 10 or 15 positions. For us, I don’t think we’re as far off. Our teammate is winning races at this point. Our setups are close to his. But, we have to figure out what makes me tick on the race track -- what makes me happy. At this point we struggle to find that in the last 10 weeks or so. There was a point in the season where we were leading a lot of laps, just not finishing because of pit crew issues or mechanical issues -- things like that. Everyone in that department has gotten better, now the driver is making a few mistakes. Things like that, we have to put it all together in these next three weeks.”
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 37th
TODD BODINE, No. 66 HP Racing LLC Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports Finishing Position: 39th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 NEMCO Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 41st
MIKE SKINNER, No. 60 Big Red Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 42nd