Toyota teams Daytona test quotes, day 1

Toyota Motorsports press release

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Toyota Motorsports Thursday morning testing quotes

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How was the morning test session? “So far, so good. It’s good to be back in a race car and get the feeling for everything and work the bugs out a little bit -- not only me, but the team. Just everybody just kind of putting all the things together and getting everything in place for when we come back down here in a month or so.”

What are your plans for this afternoon’s test? “Just get some drafting in. Also, seeing exactly what -- ‘A,’ NASCAR is going to tolerate or, ‘B,’ what the cars will tolerate being able to push or whether we can’t. Excited about being back in the M&M’s car again and, of course, having the TRD (Toyota Racing Development) support that’s here this week, so that’s been really good.”

How will the rule changes impact the two-car tandems? “We don’t know right now. We think it’s going to impact it quite a bit. We used to be able to figure it out how we could push and keep pushing for a run. Now, I think it’s going to be all the way back to where you’re only going to have maybe a lap or two.”

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DAVE ROGERS, crew chief, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How was the morning test session? “We’re pretty happy with the performance of our Toyota Camry this morning. The transition to the TRD motor package you know working with Joe Gibbs Racing has been really smooth. The introduction of EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) has been really smooth, so we’re really excited about that. We’re mid-pack on the board. Obviously we want to be better, but fairly pleased with what we’ve got. The fab (fabrication) shop built us a new race car over the off-season -- new chassis, new body and unloaded really smooth, so pretty pleased with this morning’s efforts. We’re going to make a few more qualifying runs in the afternoon and then probably around two o’clock we’ll go out there and play around with the 20 (Joey Logano) car and the 11 (Denny Hamlin) car and see what this two-car tandem draft is going to look like now that NASCAR has some made rule changes.”

How long do you think you can push with the new rules? “Everyone has their guesses. I think everyone would tell you probably a lap, but that’s something we’re going to work on. NASCAR’s trying to answer the call of the fans and try to put us back in the pack, but as racers we know that two cars linked up together is faster, so we’re always going to try to migrate in that direction. You can’t unlearn what you’ve learned in the past. I think every team out here will be working on that -- that tandem pack – to see if we can overcome the rules, but, I tell you, NASCAR has done a really good job at clipping our wings on that one, so I don’t know if we can overcome it or not.”

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DARIAN GRUBB, crew chief, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How has the transition been to Joe Gibbs Racing? “It’s been very interesting -- a lot of things to learn with the people and the faces and putting all those things together. Other than that, it’s just definitely a top-notch organization. They have a lot of good equipment, a lot of good things, a lot of good people, so now it’s just putting all those things in one direction and try to go win a championship.”

How important is this test being with a new team? “It’s really good for us just to be able to come down here -- it’s kind of a no pressure week with three days of testing here at the speedway. No matter really what you do, you’re not going to pick up a whole lot of speed. You are just trying to learn things as you go along. Denny (Hamlin) and I are able to communicate on the radio with a new spotter, new crew chief and new driver -- it’s entertaining at least to try to get all those thing rolling in one direction. So far it’s been really good and I think we’re going to be hitting it off pretty well.”

What do you anticipate seeing with the new rule changes? “No one has done any drafting yet and that’s when it’s going to come into play. After lunch when people start doing some of that, you will start seeing some of the changes. It’s definitely going to limit how long you’re going to be able to push each other, but we all still know how much more speed there is if you’re able to push even if it is only for one lap or two. It’s going to be interesting to see what people come up with or games they try to play.”

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JASON RATCLIFF, crew chief, No. 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How do you feel about becoming the crew chief for the No. 20 Sprint Cup Camry? “It’s very exciting. When I look at it from a family perspective -- my wife and I -- we’ve often thought being in this sport, ‘Will this day come?’ And if it does, ‘What’s the best timing for us?’ Really I can’t think of a better time as far as my family goes. I’m excited about it and I’m excited about working with Joey (Logano). We have a championship race team over here and he’s pumped up. He’s looking forward to it. They have a good group. We need to get faster race cars and I know our engineers and then also bringing Darian (Grubb, crew chief No. 11) -- it’s kind of opened up this whole process a little bit in some different areas and with myself as well. Hopefully I can bring some new ideas over here too. It’s going to be fun and we’re looking forward to it. So far everything is going well. Nothing crazy -- it is Daytona. Right now the biggest frustrations we have are the wind and the seagulls. Other than that, it’s all good.”

What is it like to walk into Daytona as a Sprint Cup crew chief? “It’s different just because I see different faces. I made so many friends over on the other side and I’m sure I will here as well. A lot of new faces so just getting familiar with these guys -- that’s the biggest change. Different color on the truck -- I almost climbed on the 18 truck earlier. I have to get used to that. On my desktop computer I put a big 20 on it so it would help me get acclimated with that part. Just new faces and new officials -- getting comfortable with that. I walked in earlier and talked to Mr. (John) Darby (NSCS Director) and I knew him from the Busch (Nationwide) Series. I am just looking forward to meeting some new friends.”

What are your goals for the Daytona test? “In the past we’ve struggled a little bit on our qualifying stuff and our aero department and engine department -- all of it -- they have really worked hard at qualifying. Here at Daytona qualifying is what it is, but you want to come down here at Speedweeks and represent your sponsor and your team by putting up a good lap. So far, it appears as though we have made some gains over the winter compared to the competition. Probably made those gains in a lot of different areas so we’re pumped about that. We have a little ways to go to catch some of these guys, but I think we’re halfway there as long as everybody else isn’t sandbagging on us. Our goal realistically is to hopefully improve our single car stuff and we’ll get out there and start pushing each other after a while and see how that goes.”

How has the transition to TRD engines and EFI been for you? “I’m not really a good judge to how much different it is than it was before. Really, it’s the same group of people -- we’ve always worked really close with TRD in the past so no real new faces there. It’s exciting to kind of get a little closer and kind of close that communication a little bit and work a little closer together. In the EFI stuff, it’s new for everybody so I hope that if there’s any area that maybe I’m coming in on the same playing field -- that’s the only one because it’s new for everybody. So far it’s going good.”

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RODNEY CHILDERS, crew chief, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing

How was the morning test session? “It’s going pretty good. Of course, we wish we were a little bit faster than what we are. It’s not too bad. We’ve been in New Smyrna (Speedway) testing the past two days and that went extremely well, so we we’re really happy with that. We feel like today is going okay. The drafting part is going to be the most-important part anyways. We’re going to switch to race trim to here and get a little drafting in and hopefully work with our teammates and some of the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) cars and try to figure out the best tandem we can and just work on handling. I think with the short spoiler it’s going to be pretty difficult and cars are going to be pretty loose getting into the corner. We’ll work on that the rest of the afternoon and hopefully get it driving good.”

How will the rules changes impacting pushing? “It really depends on how you can get the thing to handle. If they can get it handling good enough, I think you can keep on pushing if you get the car hung out far enough. We’ll see how it goes and it’s kind of nobody knows right now, so we’ll just have to see how it goes and go from there.”

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BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Kingsford/Kleenex/Bush’s Baked Beans Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing

Are you concerned about missing the Daytona test? “As important as the Daytona test is, we have a lot of time there in February and we’ll get more practice there than anywhere else we go. I feel like we will be able to miss the test and still be in pretty good shape when we get down there for the race. Time spent in the shop this week will be more valid for us to prepare cars -- not just Daytona, but several weeks after that.”

Can you rely on past experience since you’re missing the test? “We were in the Bud Shootout last year and were kind of like a lost puppy out there and then we found our way. In the Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying race, we lost the draft near the end. In the Daytona 500, it was a different story. We were able to stay out of trouble and survive the day through a lot of carnage that went on. We kept in contention and when it came down to the end of the race, we were tucked in behind the leader. We came close to winning and ended up with a top-five (fourth-place) finish. If we can be that fortunate this year and put ourselves in position again, anything can happen.”

Daytona Testing Day 1 -- PM Session -- Notes & Quotes

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How did the two-car tandem draft feel with the new NASCAR rules? “Today with the new rule package and everything for the cars it certainly changed it a little bit, not a whole lot. There’s some different elements -- the drivers really have to work hard trying to make sure that you stay connected and that you can get air into the intake for the radiator. Other than that, it’s kind of good just to get back in a race car and get back to the feeling of everything.”

What will it be like not to have communication with your teammates in the draft? “It’s going to be a lot more difficult. So far here at the test they’ve allowed us at least to talk to each other. Coming down to race time, we’re not supposed to. It’s definitely going to make it challenging. You’re going to have to go through talking to your spotter, your spotter talking to his spotter, his spotter talking to him so there’s too many different channels that you have to go through to get the communication going.”

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DAVE ROGERS, crew chief, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How did the new NASCAR rules affect the draft? “Today was a good example that you can’t unlearn things that you learned in the past. Everyone in the garage area learned that the fastest way around here is to have two cars hooked up bumper-to-bumper and go. We’re never going to forget that. I know NASCAR is working really hard at making some new rules to bunch us back up, but as racers we’re going to take whatever route is the fastest -- that’s the name of the game. Right now it still looks like two cars tied up is faster than a pack is going to be. The rules are going to have impact. Cars can’t hook up as long, they can’t stay nose-to-tail as long as they used to and when they do stay nose-to-tail for a longer time then the guy in the back has to pull further to the outside of the guy leading. You will see a different style race in February based on the rule changes, but you’re still going to see a bunch of racers try to hook up nose-to-tail.”

How long could the cars stay hooked up in the draft? “With the rule changes that NASCAR made, they really tied our hands. You can only stay hooked up bumper-to-bumper, center line to center line a half to three-quarters of a lap. So NASCAR accomplished their goal there. You can go longer when you pull out to the side. If you pull far enough out you can ride there all day. The more you pull out, the longer you can ride there, but the slower you are. If you need more speed you’re going to pull in center line to center line, if you need to stay cooler longer then you’re going to get that grill opening exposed to clean air. Drivers are going to have their hands full trying to figure out what they need to do and when they need to do it -- and when do you lay all the cards on the table.”

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JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How did the two-car tandem work with you and Kyle Busch? “Oh man, we we’re pushing like crazy. It was alright. It was okay. We’re just working with what we need to do to try to be able to do it again with the rules changes and stuff like that. It’s made it super hard. It works good in practice right now, but when we get a bunch of cars around us in a racing situation, it’s probably not going to work as good. We’ll kind of see what happens. I wish we could get a lot of cars out there and I think that will be happening in the next couple of days, maybe tomorrow. I’m sure there will be a lot more cars out their drafting. Hopefully, something like that happens and it comes along good and we’ll have a better read than where we are at. We’re trying some things -- trying to keep our car as cool as we can, some handling things, getting pushed and stuff like that.”

What do you anticipate in a big group? “I wish we got more cars out there today to know for sure, but I really think that we’re not going to be pushing as much. I think there will be a little bit of pushing and I think there will be a lot of old school draft, or whatever you want to call it. I think a lot of people are going to save it until the end and a lot of people won’t be able to do it for a very long time. I think it’s going to kind of look like the races when we first started to figure out how to do this two-car draft and only some people were doing it and some other people were just doing the regular draft. All that is probably going to look similar to that than what we had before.”

“I’m hoping they change that back, because it ain’t going to pretty if w What are your thoughts on eliminating the in-race communication between drivers? “I’m hoping they change that back, because it ain’t going to pretty if we can’t talk to each other.”

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JASON RATCLIFF, crew chief, No. 20 Home Depot/Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How was your first day of testing at Daytona? “It went good. We started off just making some single car runs and felt like we found a few things. We found some speed. Our drafting stuff -- the biggest thing with the rule changes that NASCAR has come out with this year and just trying to figure that out and see how it’s going to affect our cars cooling wise, the spoiler is a lot smaller and just working through some stability things and trying to get the drivers comfortable to where they can draft. The thing we don’t know yet is when you get 15 or 30 cars out there together, that’s what we’re trying to prepare for. Until you do it, you really don’t know what you’ve got. We learned some things there, we made a lot of chassis adjustments and obviously going through the new EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) stuff and trying to get familiar with that. It was a good day. We’ve got a couple more days here and I think we’ll learn a lot.”

Is there a bigger risk with the two-car tandem with the new rules? “There is because you’re cutting it way too close. You can stay together, but you have to sacrifice speed to do it. You have to tuck out and get some air on the nose and as you do that you continue to slow the car down. Again, when you get seven or eight groups out there doing that it’s going to be a different ball game. It will be interesting. Hopefully, tomorrow we will get more guys out there drafting and get some more tandems out there and see how it works out. One time there we got three cars -- all three Joe Gibbs (Racing) cars out there just to see how that would work out and it was okay. The speed wasn’t there. You have to weigh it all out and by the time you do the swap every two or two-and-a-half laps then you figure all that in -- we’re just trying to weigh all our options and go back and lay it all out on the table and see what’s best.”

What do you think we will see in the race in February? “I think you’re going to see bigger packs just because guys can’t stay tucked up like they could before. The cars are going to get too hot. Today we were able to communicate fairly well, but I think they’re talking about taking some of the communication away between the drivers -- for safety reasons. A lot of times you get a lot of chatter and you don’t really know who to listen to and who not to listen to. NASCAR is looking at that and so that’s something we have to think through as well, but I think it will be more packed up. You’ll see two-car tandems, but they’re not going to be driving away from the rest of them like we’ve seen in the past.”

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DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

How was the afternoon test session? “It was good. It was good to get back on track and get the emotions and all going again. It takes a while after you sit out for a while to kind of get back in the rhythm and things.” How long can maintain the two-car tandems? “Just about two laps really was the max for us. We couldn’t do much more than that, but we’re on the verge of being able to use it and not use it and we’re kind of in between, so I think if it stays this way it could be make for a lot of accidents during the (Daytona) 500. It’s kind of uneasy running that speed with two cars draft”

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CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing

How was the car after you got back on the track? “We got her straightened back out and she’ll be fine. We’ll get back out there drafting and looking forward to that. Just had to make sure that the car didn’t knock any speed off it, but it’s just fine.”

Is the two-car tandem riskier with the new rules changes? “The reward is worth the risk, unfortunately, and when you have that situation you’ve got to go out and do it. We got bit, but we’ll learn from it and we’ve got to learn some more tomorrow.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags bowyer, kyle busch, labonte, logano, martin, toyota