Camry driver Clint Bowyer earned his third victory of the 2012 season in Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Bowyer led three times for 29 laps (of 334) on the North Carolina track.
Toyota Chase drivers Denny Hamlin (second) and Martin Truex Jr. (10th) also recorded top-10 finishes on the 1.5- mile track.
Camry drivers Kyle Busch (fifth) and Joey Logano (ninth) also earned top-10 finishes at Charlotte.
Other Camry drivers in the field included Travis Kvapil (25th), Landon Cassill (26th), Bobby Labonte (32nd), David Stremme (37th), Mike Bliss (39th) and Reed Sorenson (41st).
Following the fifth of 10 races in the 'Chase for the Sprint Cup,' Camry drivers in the standings include Hamlin (third), Bowyer (fourth) and Truex (seventh).
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 1st
How were you able to stretch the fuel mileage?
"I love gas man Mike (Metcalf). I just hold it and turn left at the end of the straightaway. That's what I do. Man, I'm telling you Brian Pattie (crew chief) -- the team that he's assembled around me is second to none. Just very proud of these guys -- very proud of everybody. We've had cars all year long capable of winning and to be able to win three times for me and everybody's led laps and we've just had a great year. Thank you to Michael (Waltrip, co-owner) and Rob Kauffman (co- owner) for taking a chance on me. Man, I love these guys."
Are you proud to get you first win on a 1.5-mile track?
"It is my first mile-and-a-half race track win and it's Charlotte -- this is my worst race track. I think even with this win, it's still my worst race track with statistics and everything. Just unbelievable job -- that's a team effort. Brian Pattie (crew chief) -- you know everybody with this EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) system, you can just fuel mapping and things like that and we've been working on fuel mileage. It paid off. I can't do a burnout. The thing doesn't have enough fuel in it to do a burnout. I'd like to practice a burnout. It's so much fun burning rubber. Hell, I don't care. I'll tell you it's a lot more fun handing that trophy over he's fixing to hand me -- that's what it's all about."
Does this emphasize that you're a contender in the title hunt?
"Realistically, we're still in the thing. We've just got to keep doing what we're doing. Talladega was a huge setback, but what a great way to bounce back and get pointed in the right direction. Going home next week -- that's going to be a lot of fun. Who knows what's going to hold with Kansas. The repave and everything, I think it's going to be maybe another wild card race for all of us in the Chase."
How special is it to win at Charlotte?
"You know, first and foremost, this is my worst race track. To be able to come here and compete and have cars capable of qualifying in the top-five and racing up front, I mean, that's -- man, I'm telling you that means a lot to me. I think it speaks volumes to our team, Brian Pattie (crew chief), everybody that he's assembled around me from the get-go. It's truly -- it makes you almost giddy. It's so much fun to come to the race track knowing you've got cars that are capable of getting the job done, you've just got to figure out how to make it work. Who would have thought in a million years after making this switch and coming over to a new family and everything that was new that we would be in victory lane three times and still -- how many races, five races left? Yeah, I've been paying a lot of attention. Five races left, and we're still in contention for a championship. Our first year together, just to be able to do that with a brand-new sponsor, a brand-new manufacturer, I'm telling you the truth -- I was almost uncomfortable going to the shop at the beginning of the year because I didn't know one face there. I knew Ty Norris (general manager) and Brian Pattie (crew chief) and Michael (Waltrip, team co-owner) -- you were there sometimes and if I could catch him when he was there I could talk, but other than that I didn't know anybody there. To walk into a new family and to be able to have the success we're having, having the teammates -- (Martin)Truex and I had a lot of fun back in the Nationwide days racing for championships and had a lot of fun back in the day, but Mark Martin, having him for a teammate, it's just a class act. You know Mark Martin, if he can't win the race, he's going to do everything he can do to help you win the race, to be in victory lane and come and congratulate us, it's an unbelievable opportunity. Toyota, new manufacturer. When we -- I'll just be honest. At the beginning of the year I heard a lot of things, a lot of rumors about the engines, the engines, the engines. Let me tell you something, in a short amount of time, from the beginning of the year until right now they've slowly and steadily become the best engine program in the sport. Just proud of everything and proud of the engineers and everybody that's been a part of it."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, co-owner, Michael Waltrip Racing
How special is this win?
"The thing that's the most special to me about the win tonight is we have 160 people that work right up the road from here, and they spend so much time caressing and working on these cars and tuning them and getting them ready to go to the track and this was their home race. They got to come watch our car drive to victory lane. Very thankful for the fact that we were able to get to victory lane and our people are able to celebrate the victory. I think a significant part of this victory, and I want to just echo Clint's (Bowyer) sentiments, not only did the Toyota engine run with as much power as we needed to win with, we got the fuel mileage we needed to win with, we had just enough gas to do one of the most amazing starts to a burnout I ever saw. It really went kind of downhill from there. But to have an engine under your hood that can perform like it did qualifying in the top-five with a new track record speed, have that kind of speed and then also have the economy that it takes to race to the checker and not have to pit late, I think a lot of people need to look at what our manufacturer has done for our organization. You know, Clint has won three races, and he hadn't been able to drive to victory lane yet because of getting there with just enough fuel. And that speaks volumes to what Toyota does. But then a guy like Brian Pattie (crew chief) has to sit on that box and make those calls that get that car just across the start-finish line."
What does it mean to you to be the only member of Toyota's 'freshman class' in NSCS?
"It means the world to me because they came to me back in '05 and said we're going to go Cup racing in '07 and we want you to be an owner, and we were racing Nationwide cars from behind my house. But they thought I could be a good owner for them, and I invested everything I had and everything that they would loan me -- which, by the way , they 'll loan you a lot more than you think they will. We were able to survive. And now with the relationship that TRD (Toyota Racing Development), MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and Joe Gibbs Racing have together, it's enabled us to really have the equipment and the engines and the technology we need to go race against the top teams, and Rob (Kauffman, co-owner) legitimized MWR on the finance side by giving us the foundation we needed to buy equipment, machinery, hire people, get drivers like Clint (Bowyer) and Mark Martin and crew chiefs like Brian Pattie. But very, very happy that they believed in me in '05. We started racing in '07 and here we are in '12 racing for a championship. There's a few things that have happened to me over my racing career that are really special to me, and this relationship is one of those."
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 2nd
How did your car handle?
"We had a top-three car all day. Didn't have the handling that I wanted most of the time, but we still had the speed to make up for it. It's finally good to have a fuel mileage race somewhat go our way. We've been struggling with these things in the past, so it teaches you you've got to be prepared for these because they seem happy more often than not."
Is it difficult to save fuel during the race?
"Yeah, you're just running the race backwards basically. You're just seeing how slow you can go and maintain your track position. It's just these cautions are falling. I think this one was a debris caution, but it was like right where it puts everyone in kind of a weird window, and so it's -- we had to prepare for it. We did prepare for it a lot better. But it's tough because I'm sitting there thinking, I can go by this 15 (Clint Bowyer) or catch him just about any time I want, but Darian (Grubb, crew chief) is screaming at me to back it off. As a race car driver, anyone can really save gas and be efficient with it. It's just a matter of how close is the guy behind you and whether he's going to pass you."
How were you able to stretch your fuel? "I think it has a lot to do with when the cautions fall. This time around everyone had two runs to prepare for this fuel mileage finish, so we really had one run at Dover, so that was a lot different. Obviously, the fuel mapping pace is a lot of what happens with your strategy, whether you choose to go full rich or not. But it's just everyone ran this last 120 laps or something three-quarter throttle. Nobody was able to really push it because nobody was comfortable with where they were at with the fuel mileage. I think this big difference was that we pitted with a group with us, the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) from 10th on back with that last caution, and so it gave us a bigger opportunity to make it in those top nine cars. And so we automatically knew we were going to be close on fuel, so I didn't see how anybody in the front group was going to make it. Really we just had 120 laps to save fuel to try to make it to the end. And so with all that time, obviously you're able to make up a little bit more difference than you would otherwise."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 5th
How did your car handle?
"It was good. The car was really good. Just tight on landing, loose on throttle -- just trying to figure out that and rebalance that as the night went on, but just couldn't quite figure that out. Guys fought hard. The fought hard yesterday. We were kind of trying to fix all those and made it a little bit better today, but just didn't have enough to be a winning car."
Is another fuel mileage race frustrating?
"Darn fuel mileage played against us again, but it's good for the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and those guys. They come home P2 (position two). Toyota won, so that's always cool of course and Bowyer and those guys. Our M&M's Camry was fast. We had a really good race car and I felt like we had a winning car barring circumstances and how they played out, but just wasn't there for us at the end with the strategy and everything, so can't say enough about all the guys. They fought hard. Yesterday, we fought a lot of the problems that we fought tonight, but we had a better driving car tonight -- seemed like at least better than some other guys anyways. We come home okay."
How close have you been to winning at Charlotte?
"We've been too close too many times here. The M&M's Camry was fast tonight. The guys did a great job yesterday in practice. We were fighting through the ill-handling balance and tendencies of this place through practice and it felt like we had a good race car tonight. It seemed better than a lot of the other guys. Happy about that. Proud of the fight they had in them. Just didn't quite have enough there at the end to get in front of the 16 (Greg Biffle) even if the front three did run out of fuel. I thought we were winning car barring some better circumstances going on way."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 10th
How was the race?
"Congratulations to Clint (Bowyer) and the 15 team. They had a fast car and could go for it on fuel mileage. They certainly have that figured out and I am happy for them. We needed a car that handled better before we could take that gamble. This track has been tough for us. We started out really strong but lost some track position and it was so hard to get it back when we were in traffic. It was so hard to pass. My car was just too tight especially behind a car. For us, to have a tough day and still finish 10th says a lot about this NAPA team. We still need to figure this place out. Again, thanks to Clint (Bowyer) and the 15 team."
Source: Toyota Motorsports