Camry driver Kasey Kahne earned his first win of the season in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at the recently redesigned Phoenix International Raceway.
Kahne led the final 14 laps (of 312) to record his 12th career NSCS victory.
It was also the first Sprint Cup Series victory at Phoenix for the Camry.
David Reutimann (seventh) also earned a top-10 result in the race at the one-mile oval.
Cole Whitt (25th) made his first career NSCS start in Sunday’s race.
Other Toyota drivers in the field included Joey Logano (11th), Denny Hamlin (12th), Martin Truex Jr. (20th), Bobby Labonte (21st), Brian Vickers (23rd), Casey Mears (26th), Kyle Busch (36th), Michael McDowell (40th) and Joe Nemechek (41st).
KASEY KAHNE, No. 4 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 1st
How does it feel to be back in victory lane? “It feels so good. It’s been a long time coming. This whole Red Bull team has done an unbelievable job to keep working hard. Kenny Francis (crew chief) keeps on it -- everybody at Red Bull, the car, the Toyota engine. It was a great run today. The guys did an awesome job. We fell back a little bit early and then came back and just kept getting it better. These guys haven’t given up in the last three months. It’s been really cool. It was really, really cool. It was slippery early, but as the tires built heat and got rubber on the track, the Goodyear tires came in pretty good. It ended up being a great race. I’m really excited."
What has been the reason for your team’s recent resurgence this season? “I think just not giving up. I think one big thing is working with Kenny Francis (crew chief). That guy, as hard as he works, I want to work as hard and I want to do as much as I can to be up front. I know Keith’s (Rodden, engineer) the same way, and all these Red Bull guys are behind him. It’s been really exciting to do that. I want to also say this to my grandma. We lost my great grandpa last week -- and it’s for her and my mom. It feels good to win for sure. He was a huge fan -- a huge supporter."
What does this win mean to you and the Red Bull Racing Team? “It means a lot. Some of these guys haven’t won before and it felt like I haven’t won. Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and the whole team that’s been together for a while that’s over at Red Bull, working with the Red Bull guys. It’s been a long season. The guys haven’t given up. We keep getting better as the season goes and it takes time to finish things up and get better when you come to something new. These guys have done an unbelievable job. It feels really good to get Red Bull in victory lane -- I just wanted to win for them really bad before the switch. Man, they’ve been a big part of NASCAR. I hope in some way they are still a big part of NASCAR because I know everyone really enjoys them being here."
Was the pit stop timing your race-winning strategy? “Oh, it definitely did for me. If we didn’t have that little bit of a lead, we wouldn’t have been able to hang on. It was big to pop in there early, try to get ahead of Carl (Edwards) and then hang on at that point."
How have you put this streak together with the pressure of knowing the team is closing down after the season? “Well, we’re lucky that everybody kept working hard and has stayed after it, preparing great race cars. We’re bringing awesome cars to the track. Brand-new car. I wouldn’t say there’s anyone out there that’s building better cars at this time. The Red Bull guys are doing an awesome job and they haven’t given up It’s tough to hear you say it’s shutting down in eight days. Over the last three months, you have one of the top-five cars in NASCAR shutting down and that’s crazy. I think it’s just the people. They haven’t given up. They’re doing a great job. We’ve been able to stay focused. I love racing. If I’m in a race car, I want to do the best that I can. Kenny Francis has given me some cars in the last few months that we’ve been able to perform with and run with Carl (Edwards) and Tony (Stewart), who have been probably the two best."
What are your impressions of the new Phoenix race track? “To me, other than the track being slippery, and that’s a hard tire a brand-new surface, it takes time to rubber in, takes time to get old and gritty and things. So, the entry to the corners are slippery. The car slides a little bit more than you would like. That’s part of this place. It’s actually like that with the old track, too. It’s flat when you turn off the wall. It’s somewhat of a slippery, technical track at times. As the rubber went onto the racetrack, I really think this place is cool and I think it’s only going to get better as time goes on. I think it raced probably the best I can remember a brand-new race surface racing on the first race. I think it’s only going to get better, be a pretty exciting track. I think you're going to have a lot of the drivers, teams, fans, looking forward to racing at Phoenix, looking forward to coming to Phoenix twice a year."
What is the difference between your performance the results of your teammate Brian Vickers this year? “I think coming to Red Bull, it was exciting for me. It was something new, a change. I was really looking forward to coming over here and having one strong year here. I've been able to work with Kenny (Francis, crew chief) and Keith (Rodden, engineer). We just keep trying to get a little bit better each week. They keep trying to give me things to make me be able to go around the track as fast as I can. I’m not sure how Brian (Vickers) and those guys go at it, but he's been a great teammate. Ryan Pemberton (No. 83 crew chief) has been great to work with. Always has a ton of enthusiasm. They’re both in victory lane after the race congratulating us. They’re right there in all of our debriefs and things. It's been a lot of fun working with those guys. Like I said, I was excited to go to Red Bull this year, to be able to have fun and have a good teammate and work with a lot of good people over there. It's been cool. It's been a lot of fun."
KENNY FRANCIS, crew chief, No. 4 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team
How was your view of the race? “From the pit box, the track changed a lot. It wasn’t really surprising. I think everyone knew it was going to do something, we just didn't know what. Everyone was kind of guessing. We started, went in one direction, then had to turn around and go back in the other direction to get the car to work. All in all we made a lot of adjustments on the car. Actually got it reasonable and pretty fast at the end. So we were pretty happy with it."
What are your impressions of the new Phoenix race track? “For my part of the question, what kind of information we had to work with. We had the test back in October where we gathered a lot of information, ran a lot of laps here. Kind of got an idea what we thought the car kind of liked as far as the setup, which was different than what we had run here in the past, because we ran good here in the spring here on the old track that was completely different from that. We felt like it was sort of similar to Loudon and we used that kind of as a basis for our thoughts. We raced a different setup than we tested. We raced a different setup than Loudon. You’re thinking in those kind of directions. Once we started the race, we knew the track was going to be a lot different than how we practiced. We knew it was going to change through the day, we just didn't know what it was going to do. We were fortunate to be able to adjust correctly and get our car pretty good."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 TUMS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 7th
How was your race? “We had a good race today in the TUMS Toyota. The new layout and surface made things a little interesting, but we qualified in the top-10 and we were able to stay up there all day long. I’m proud of the crew guys for the job they did today. They really stuck with me and turned out some great pit stops. And, I have to thank Pat Tryson (interim crew chief) for stepping in to help us out -- he called a great race today. This team is capable of racing like this all the time, but for one reason or another we just haven’t shown it much this year. This is a great group of guys! Probably one of the best in the garage and they have been with me a long time. We have one more week together and I was to go out on a high note at Homestead.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 11th
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 12th
What are your thoughts on the race track? “Nobody could pass anyone -- so it was really, really difficult from that aspect. We did the best that we could with what we had. We just missed the set-up pretty bad today. We just didn’t run that well.”
Was there a problem with the front end of your race car after the race? “(I) was running in off that apron. Just trying to get a look and see if it bent the splitter or anything. It looks like it just got side skirts and that was about it."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 20th
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Wounded Warrior Project Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 21st
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 23rd
COLE WHITT, No. 84 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 25th
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 26th
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 36th
Did you have any warning that something was wrong with your race car? “No, no indication this time, just a catastrophic failure. Just really, really unfortunate, too. These guys work their butts off two weeks in a row -- all season long. It’s just devastating. To go through turmoil like this, all you can do is group together and pull through it and try to persevere and move on. We have one more chance, one more opportunity next week to win a race before the year is out to end it on a high note. Look forward to next year with everything going on. Can’t say enough about all these guys on this Interstate Batteries team this weekend, too. Changing the engine, starting behind, coming through, how to worry about qualifying and just getting in the show. All the way to third, you know, we had a shot. We were there. It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to finish the race today."
What happened to your race car? “Catastrophic engine failure. It’s terrible to have one in a weekend, let alone two in a weekend. I can’t say enough about this whole team. All these Interstate Batteries guys do such a phenomenal job and you know, it’s times like these where you feel like you’re down in the dumps and all you can do is try to pull together, persevere and move on through it. It’s certainly a tough few weeks and all we can do is look forward to next week at Homestead. It’s the season finale, but it’s a great opportunity for us to go out there and win a race in the final outing and get ready to build upon for 2012. Again, I hate it for these guys. They just don’t deserve this. All we can do is work forward."
How did the track evolve during the race? “It’s slick. Man, you’re on tip-toes all the time. It’s tough, it’s very tough but some of us make it look easy, but it might be because we’re all considered the best in the business. Again, that’s a great point. I can’t say enough about my guys for giving me a great race car, too. We were up to third, we battled through the field and up from the back pack. We were running third there behind the 14 (Tony Stewart) and 99 (Carl Edwards) -- the two championship contenders -- we were right there with those guys having our own story battling out front and possibly having a shot for the win, which meant a lot to these guys."
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 66 HP Racing, LLC Toyota Camry, HP Racing Finishing Position: 40th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 41st