Camry driver Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Talladega Superspeedway.
· The win could solidify Hamlin a spot in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
· The Chesterfield-Va. native led 12 laps (of 188) en route to his first career points race win at a superspeedway -- he has four non-points wins at Daytona International Speedway.
· Hamlin started the race from the 34th position in his 300th career NSCS start and went on to win his 24th career victory.
· The win marks the second of the season for Toyota, 65th in NSCS since joining the series in 2007 and third at the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway.
· Camry drivers Clint Bowyer (third) and Brian Vickers (fourth) also earned top-five finishes at Talladega. The finish for Bowyer was his best of the season and for Vickers it ties his season best also matched at Texas Motor Speedway in April.
· Vickers (six laps), Kyle Busch (one) and Matt Kenseth (one) also took turns out front in the 500-mile race.
· Four Camry drivers are in the top-15 in the unofficial NSCS point standings following 10 races -- Kenseth (second), Busch (third), Vickers (10th) and Hamlin (12th).
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
Does this win mean more considering it should secure you a place in this year’s Chase?
“We really just want to win races -- regardless of what implications this means for the Chase, it feels good to be back in victory lane in a points paying event anyway. Couldn’t do it without this FedEx team -- my pit crew has done an awesome job. They picked me up no less than 10 spots every single week and they did it again today. It just strategically saw that things were getting a little heavy there in the middle part of the race and those guys got in a wreck and we were able to avoid that and just play our cards right there and make the right strategy. Proud of this whole FedEx team -- can’t thank FedEx enough and Coke, Sprint, the Jordan brand, Toyota and the fans. This was the biggest crowd I’ve seen here in many, many years so proud of the whole fan turnout and just proud of our day today.”
Are you becoming more of superspeedway racer? “I’m still a short track guy. Those are my roots, that’s where I love racing the most, but we’ve come a long way. I said that over the radio to Darian (Grubb, crew chief). We couldn’t finish 22nd at a superspeedway race for the longest time and now it seems like when we go we know we’ve got the knowledge and car that can win. It feels good to come to these types of race tracks and know you can win.”
Did you feel confident being in the bottom lane for the final restart? “We knew we were in a good spot to get a victory and it was a just a matter of which line was going to get the push -- was it going to be the outside or inside. I thought my best chance was to stay on the inside, but usually the outside lane gets jumbled up with guys trying to stick it three-wide. I chose the bottom and it was the right decision.”
What was your spotter telling you about the accident on the final lap? “I knew that there was a wreck somewhere around the start-finish line and I knew that we had to just keep in it. NASCAR did a good job of just letting the race play out as long as it was able to safely. Applaud them for that. We went all the way through three and four really ran three-quarters of a lap extra after the wreck happened. It gave everyone a chance to improve their position.”
Was the racing crazy today? “Yeah, it was. These cars are just so hard to pass believe it or not that you get bottled up, you get where you can’t make any moves. You have to be in those top-two lines to do anything. I knew once we were in the top three in those last 20 laps that we were going to be in good shape.”
How does it feel to get your first points superspeedway win? “It feels great. I’ve got tons of exhibition wins on superspeedways, but none with points. I like it.”
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing - Finishing Position: 3rd
How much did you want a chance to race back to the checkered flag? “When you’ve got cars crashing and sitting there dead in the water right at the start-finish then you have to make that call. Bummer situation though because I just liked what I saw with (Greg) Biffle -- you knew he was going to pull out and make a move. I had my teammate (Brian Vickers) right behind me and I was really looking forward to that opportunity when Biffle did pull out and make a move, I thought that was a chance for me to get a good push from my teammate and try to pounce on those guys while they were side-by-side and stalled out. It just didn’t happen. Congratulations to Denny Hamlin and Toyota -- this is a big win for anybody. Great crowd today and just a fun race track.”
How important is this finish after last weekend’s race at Richmond? “After last weekend -- blew three tires and burnt the car to the ground, it was a pretty crummy weekend. To get things turned back around on a positive note and I just told Rob (Kauffman, team co-owner), my boss -- I turned to him and looked at all three of his cars sitting out here and I said, ‘Did you really just finish Talladega with not a scratch on all three cars, that’s pretty lucky.”
How crazy was the racing today? “It’s just Talladega. So exciting there at the end. It’s a shame. What do you do? NASCAR tried to do everything they could do to let it finish but it’s dangerous if there’s cars sitting there at the start-finish line. They did the right thing. It was going to be interesting. I thought I was in a really good situation. I had my teammate right behind me. You know (Greg) Biffle was going to try something and when he did I think we could’ve pounced on it and at least got a good push. That kind of situation that I liked about it is that finish line being so far out.
I knew Biffle, like I said, he was going to try something and having that push behind me that I knew was going to stick with me I think could’ve been something. All in all, hey, I just told Rob (Kauffman, team co-owner), ‘Hey, do you really have all three of these things in one piece at the end of Talladega? You’re pretty lucky.’ Hats off to Denny (Hamlin) and Toyota. They did a good job and a good day for us. It was a good turnaround. We’ve needed a good run here and after last week it was a pretty dismal week for us and a good way to get things bounced back.”
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing - Finishing Position: 4th
How strong was the car today? “The guys did a great job and we just had a little mishap -- obviously you hate to have those. Everyone on the Aaron’s Dream team did a great job for the Aaron’s Dream Weekend. We were so close to winning this thing. The Camry was strong. Once we got our track position back we were able to hang in there. I thought me and Clint (Bowyer) were going to jump to the outside and the 47 (AJ Allmendinger) got me sideways and we lost momentum, but it was still a good day when you’re disappointed with fourth.”
Were you and Clint Bowyer going to try for the win in the final corner? “Oh absolutely. I didn’t want to go by myself and we at least needed two guys if not three. I knew the 47 (AJ Allmendinger) was going to go low, but I think that him and I had enough momentum out of four that we could have made something happen, but it’s still a long ways back around. We were going to have to have someone fill in the gap behind us, but I’m sure they would have. It’s such a tough decision and then once the 47 got me sideways the momentum was broken for the rest of the lap.”
What does this race say about Michael Waltrip Racing? “MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) is a great organization and we’ve come a long way and we compete week in and week out with all these teams. It’s more than just us and these guys on this pit box -- there’s a lot of hard working people back home at MWR in the race shop, but also at Costa Mesa TRD (Toyota Racing Development) out in California building us good engines.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 12th
COLE WHITT, No. 26 Scorpyd Crossbows Toyota Camry, BK Racing - Finishing Position: 21st
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 66 BlueDEF Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing - Finishing Position: 25th
ALEX BOWMAN, No. 23 Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry, BK Racing - Finishing Position: 28th
RYAN TRUEX, No. 83 VooDoo BBQ & Grill Toyota Camry, BK Racing - Finishing Position: 31st
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing - Finishing Position: 37th
How bad is the race car and what happened in the accident? “It’s pretty torn up, but hopefully we can run a couple laps to get ahead of whoever else is out. Brad (Keselowski) made a pretty bold move early -- mind-boggling move I guess you could say in going in front of Danica (Patrick) early and spun out in front of the field and got away with it. Then I thought he was a bunch of laps down, but maybe he was trying to get back on the lead lap and just spun out in front of all of us and tore up a bunch of good race cars. Really unfortunate -- everyone on this Dollar General team did a great job this week. I thought we had a pretty fast car, we just couldn’t get going there on restarts. Just trying to get that lane moving and Brad was getting that lane up towards the front and we were trying to get up there and get back to safety and we just didn’t make it.”
Was the racing wild from the driver’s seat? “It was. It was always three-wide racing it seemed like -- two or three-wide. All three grooves had really good equal speed today so it was exciting racing while it lasted.”
Are you bitter that Brad Keselowski was six laps down and racing that aggressively? “Well, I will say one thing if it was the other way around and it was anybody else except for him we’d all be getting lectured. I didn’t know he was that many laps down honestly. He came down in front of the 10 car (Danica Patrick) and spun out and then was racing pretty aggressively there to try to get it back.”