Pole sitter, Hamlin, and Toyota drivers talk about Fontana qualifying

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Toyota Motorsports press release

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Qualified: 1st How was your pole-winning qualifying run? "It was really a good day all around for us. We obviously showed some pretty good speed in the first practice. Even in race trim, it put us in the top-five. I knew once we got to qualifying we'd have a strong car. It was a good draw for us to get the late draw by being fast in practice. Our FedEx Camry was extremely fast today. That's all you can say about it -- it's good for one lap. We'll work on 500 miles tomorrow."

Pole winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Pole winner Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

What's the difference between the California and Las Vegas race tracks? "There's a lot of differences. This is a new car -- this is the latest and greatest of what we've got available to us. Obviously, that gives you a lot of confidence ov er the weekend knowing you've got a brand new car, a great TRD (Toyota Racing Development) engine. This is a big motor track, so we need all the horsepower we can get and we've been working on TRD pretty hard to get us some good stuff and obviously they've come through for us. We're getting better. At Vegas, that's a fairly new surface and a lot different tire. This is a worn surface. The tracks race completely different. But, we have speed this weekend, we didn't have any speed in Vegas. Even though whatever has happened over the last two weeks in our shop and our organization, we've found some speed here."

Did the wind affect you on the race track? "It was different. You could feel it for sure. My crew chief (Darian Grubb) told me beforehand that there's a headwind going off turn two. The only downside to running the high line it looked like you had more headwind for a longer amount of time, so that's why I chose to run the bottom. It seemed like you could cut off a little distance because of the headwind and it seemed like everything worked out in our favor. It buffered the car around a little bit but didn't change too much with our lap."

How do you select a line on this race track? "Everyone had a different way of doing it. It seemed like there were some guys that were five lanes up and some that worked there way down. We were one of the few cars that ran all the way on the bottom. For whatever reason, that's where we practiced and I didn't want to change that. I've done all my qualifying runs early in the day and practice race runs on the bottom. Really, I think I would have been less efficient running the top even though it might have been faster. My safest route was to take the bottom and take what it gave us."

Is California aging gracefully like Michigan? "Yes, it's taking shape just like Michigan. Michigan, obviously they paved it this year, but it's one of the most fun race tracks we go to as a race driver. This track has matured great even though it's got battle scars in the corners and things like that and different seams around the line that people fight -- that's what makes it fun. That's what makes guys search around and try to find different lines. Even in qualifying, this is one of the very few race tracks where you see guys qualify from all the way at the top, to all the way at the bottom. That's fun when a driver can make a difference and he can here at California."

Does this pole award help rekindle some of the spark you've had with crew chief Darian Grubb? "It does. It can't get any better than right after a race win and everyone is excited and happy. Even though we've ran sub- par these last couple weeks, everyone is still in a good mood and still happy about where we're at and where we're heading. That's something that we did lose in 2011. The moral of everyone, we needed an uplift and it seems like regardless of these last couple weeks, we knew we were going to have our struggles at the beginning of the season until we get cars built like Darian (Grubb, crew chief) likes them and things like that. This is the first chapter of that and I think we've got some good things coming along the lines. We have to be patient, we need to harness our expectations for our race team for the first eight to 10 races and then see what we have when it comes summer time."

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Qualified: 2nd How was it taking the high side around the track? "Well, he (Joey Logano) made it work for him and everybody else since has followed what he did. So, I did the same thing and I felt like our car was pretty decent. Just missed a little bit down in (turns) one and two. Maybe drove it in there a little too far. But, when I got back to it I could commit to it really well. I don't know that it's going to hold up. Hopefully it does. That would be nice. If not, it should be a really good starting spot for us regardless. Hopefully good pit selection and means something for Sunday."

How was your qualifying run? "It didn't start out so great in practice, but Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys did an immaculate job putting the thing together and making a bunch of changes through practice and then into qualifying trim in order to get ourselves a better handling car. That qualifying run was pretty weird. I've never qualified that high here before and run in (turns) one and two up in the third lane like that. I think Joey (Logano) kind of started the trend there and a lot of people picked up on it and started running some really good times and low-and-behold one of the only guys that runs the bottom, Denny (Hamlin), beat you. So, it was a really good run for us and our Interstate Batteries Camry to be able to qualify on the front row and get us a good starting spot and good pit selection for Sunday and it's cool to have our teammate right up there with us to sit on the front row. Hopefully, we can stay there."

Is it good to have a strong qualifying effort after the frustration of last week? "It hasn't just been last week. It's been this whole year so far. We just haven't quite gotten my stride yet and haven't hit on all eight cylinders. This certainly helps. You come to California and it's a place I like to come to and have had some success here and have had some luck. Unfortunately, I've only one once here in the Cup series. Last year we ran really well -- ran third. I'm looking to change that here this weekend to have another solid run like we did. Maybe a little bit better the last two runs of the race in order to keep ourselves in position and leading the race and to win the race. This helps a little bit, but we certainly got to be a lot better tomorrow and carry our weight on Sunday."

MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Qualified: 3rd How was your qualifying lap? "Good -- we're third. We had a very nice potential. I missed my line a little bit in turn one. It felt really good so I was a little over optimistic on the entry there. Everything else we nailed it. I'm just so grateful to have such fast race cars to drive and getting to work with these guys is really been a nice surprise."

How was your qualifying run? "I told my guys on the Dream Machine that they must have given me the fastest race car for sure because I kind of missed the corner. I was a little over optimistic on the entry of turn one and I wound up up in the high side. To me, anything six inches off the bottom is getting high. So, I was up in the middle of the race track and had to make the best of the lap. I was incredibly proud of being third because usually when I miss it like that I'm like 25th. Very fast race car. It's been such a pleasant surprise to hook up with MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and all the great personnel that they have there and the tremendous foundation that they have in the organization is really there. Rodney Childress (crew chief) has just been really special. What a great crew chief and a great relationship -- a friend for life."

Is the track different from last year? "I don't think the track is tremendously different. The tire is different and so it's making the cars handle better. There seems to be a little bit more crack sealer (on the track), but the tire is handling the sealer a little bit better."

JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Qualified: 8th How did you feel during your qualifying lap? "During my qualifying run I was confused going down the front straightaway to the start-finish line where I was going to go into turn one and whether I was going to run the bottom. My car wasn't very good on the bottom during practice and thought, 'To the heck with it -- I'm going to go for it and run high.' I didn't think it was going to be that good. To be honest, I missed my line on everything. It just goes to show how good the guys did on the Dollar General Toyota -- the car is really good. Hopefully it hangs in there. It was quite the pickup for us since our practice. Jason Ratcliff (crew chief) and the boys did an awesome job in qualifying again."

CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Qualified: 11th

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Qualified: 13th Did you make a decision to take the high side of the track during qualifying? "Yeah. I made my mind up coming to the green that I was going to run the high side in (turns) one and two. And it's like I'm sitting on the grid out there and I saw Joey (Logano) run up there and he's fast. And then Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) went and he was second. So, I'm like, 'Should I do it or should I not?' I hadn't done it all day. We ran the bottom. The track was clean when we went out this morning. At the end of practice we were struggling a little bit with the bottom in (turns) one and two. I left pit road and went into (turn) three and I'm thinking about it. I'm going down the front and I'm like, 'Chad (Johnston, crew chief) I'm just going to try the high side.' I made up my mind when I was getting there and I missed it just a tick. It worked out and it was okay. Doesn't matter where you start -- it's where you finish. So, we'll work hard on it tomorrow."

DAVID STREMME, No. 30 Inception Motorsports Toyota Camry, Inception Motorsports Qualified: 20th

BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Kingsford Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Qualified: 26th How was your qualifying run? "Not very good. We went into turn one and just didn't get through there very good -- went through the bumps wrong. We tried a little something different from practice. Turns three and four were okay, but just one and two weren't quiet what we wanted -- lost some time there."

LANDON CASSILL, No. 83 Burger King Toyota Camry, BK Racing Qualified: 31st

MIKE BLISS, No. 19 TriStar Motorsports Toyota Camry, TriStar Motorsports Qualified: 39th

TRAVIS KVAPIL, No. 93 Burger King Toyota Camry, BK Racing Qualified: 40th

JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 AM/FM Energy Wood & Pellet Stoves Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Qualified: DNQ

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags bowyer, busch, hamlin, logano, martin, toyota, truex