Toyota Motorsports press release
Camry driver Denny Hamlin won his first race of the season, and the 18th victory of his career, in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Hamlin led the field three times for 61 laps at the one-mile race track.
Camry drivers Kyle Busch (sixth), Martin Truex Jr. (seventh), Mark Martin (ninth) and Joey Logano (10th) also earned top-10 finishes.
Other Toyota drivers in the field included Bobby Labonte (16th), Travis Kvapil (19th), JJ Yeley (26th), David Stremme (29th), Clint Bowyer (30th), Landon Cassill (35th) and Joe Nemechek (40th).
Following the Phoenix victory, Hamlin now leads the unofficial NSCS driver point standings and fellow Camry drivers Truex (sixth), Martin (seventh), Logano (eighth) and Busch (ninth) are also among the top-10.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How did you get the race win? "If you would have asked me at the beginning of the day, I would have said I'd take a top-15 finish. Just an amazing job by this FedEx Office team. Just kept working on it. Every time we worked on it, it got better. Can't thank them enough. This win is for Johnny Furino. He lost his Dad. He's one of our head mechanics. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. He lost his Dad yesterday. We're thinking about him. He told me before he left that only a trophy will do, and we're going to bring it back home to him. It feels good. Someone asked me - one of the FedEx employees asked me earlier today - 'Do you know where victory lane is here?' I said, 'I don't know but they can point me to it after the race.'"
How important is this win for your race team? "Huge momentum. We've never been in this position this early in the season. We've always struggled. We've always taken our time - five or six races in - before we hit our stride. This is particularly not my type of race track - new pavement. I'm usually better at saving tires. He (Darian Grubb, crew chief) made me a winner today."
What does this victory mean? "So much. I mean -- for this whole team to bounce back the way we have. We knew we were going to have a rebound year and I told everyone we were. You got to prove it. You got to go out and win these races. A great step in the right direction for our race team."
What was the strategy in the closing laps and were you trying to save fuel? "Absolutely, I was saving the entire run and I was kind of pacing myself off the 29 (Kevin Harvick). He had a really dominant car there towards the middle part. If he could inch closer, I'd step up the pace. We did what we had to do today."
How was your car during the race? "It seemed like once we had that green flag pit stop, our car took off from there. Whatever he (Darian Grubb, crew chief) did to it from that point, it took off and we had the best car since."
Would you consider Phoenix your second 'home' track? "I love it out here. Obviously, winning doesn't hurt anything. We're going to have a big party tonight."
DARIAN GRUBB, Crew Chief, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What does it feel like to win so early with your new team? "I guess you could say it is a little bit of vindication, but I really don't think that way. I try to just think the high road all the time. I feel like I came into a very good situation. Mike Ford built one heck of a team here with the 11 car, and the FedEx Toyota is obviously really strong -- Joe Gibbs organization is very strong. I've got a lot of friends in both organization, but I'm proud to come in here and lead this bunch of guys, and even just guys like John Furino (mechanic) who's actually at home now, his father passed away, he left Phoenix to go back and we dedicated this win to him because he's a big part of it. We're a united team. We're working together that way, and we are just going to keep doing it."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Brown Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 6th
How was your race? "It was a really good race. We had a really good car there through the beginning and middle stages of the race. We took lefts (tires) and we were leading for a long time and just kind of got off sequence a little bit with those laps and could never get the handle of the car back. We just kept fighting tight the rest of the day. I hate it for that, hate it for the guys. We were really fast and I thought we had a shot to win, but the 11 (Denny Hamlin) just got it when it mattered most."
Did the track temperature and slickness of the track affect your race? "Yeah, it was definitely slick for sure. The track surface getting above 100 or 110 degrees definitely makes restarts treacherous and every lap out there on the race track."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 7th
Are you happy with your race finish? "It was a good day for our NAPA Filters Toyota. We fought track position all day long. Finally at the end we had a little bit better tires than some of the guys and knew we could make on fuel and were able to go the distance there, so that helped a little bit. We were just really fast at the end on new tires. We were able to get the lead and with no tires and 20 lap tires were able to check out and leave them. It's just a shame we had to pit. I'm not sure how those guys made it -- there's no way we could have made it from there. We'll work on that. I'm really pleased with the team and the car. We fought hard all day and got us a good finish."
Did track position hurt your chances for the win? "It does, it's just hard to pass. Our NAPA Filters Toyota was really fast when we get some clean air today. It was a lot of fun when we got out front there on 20 lap tires and we were able to drive away from (Kevin) Harvick who had new ones and able to get a big lead. It's just a shame we had to pit there. I'm proud of the team, proud of what we did all day long. We messed ourselves up yesterday when we qualified bad and we fought that all day long. This NAPA Filters Toyota was a rocket when we could get to clean air. I'm proud to drive these things and looking forward to the rest of the year with cars that have speed like this."
MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 9th
What do you think of your first top-10 at Michael Waltrip Racing? "Proud of the effort and any time you get a top-10 with this group of guys, you have to say it's a reasonable run. We had a little more than that, maybe not quite enough to win, but definitely a shot at a top-five. We had EFI (electronic fuel injection) problems."
What does your Phoenix finish tell you about the rest of the season? "Optimism -- it looks really good. Martin (Truex Jr.) had a good run, too. Kudos to Michael Waltrip Racing."
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 10th
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Kroger Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
Finishing Position: 16th
TRAVIS KVAPIL, No. 93 Burger King Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Finishing Position: 19th
JJ YELEY, No. 49 America Israel Racing Toyota Camry, America Israel Racing
Finishing Position: 26th
DAVID STREMME, No. 30 Inception Motorsports Toyota Camry, Inception Motorsports
Finishing Position: 29th
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 30th
LANDON CASSILL, No. 83 Burger King Toyota Camry, BK Racing
Finishing Position: 35th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports
Finishing Position: 40th