Denny Hamlin (third) and Kyle Busch (fifth) scored top-five finishes for Toyota in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Hamlin led 56 laps in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, and recorded his ...
Denny Hamlin (third) and Kyle Busch (fifth) scored top-five finishes for Toyota in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Hamlin led 56 laps in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, and recorded his best-career finish at Atlanta.
Toyota drivers Tony Stewart (17th) and Brian Vickers (21st) also posted top-25 results Sunday afternoon.
Other Toyota drivers in the field included David Reutimann (28th), Marcos Ambrose (29th), Scott Speed (34th), Ken Schrader (35th), Michael Waltrip (37th) and Dave Blaney (41st).
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Do you think you had a car that was capable of winning? "We had a race-winning car, but our car didn't like those cycles on those cautions. We had the field licked and then we had that debris caution, and it just changed the whole complexion of the race. When that happens, you have to take it for what it's worth. We tried to do the best we could. Our car did not like cycles at all. Throughout the day, our car wasn't good on cycles. My team gave me the best car they've ever given me here. They gave me an opportunity to win. My pit crew did awesome. We just weren't able to capitalize."
How was your car in today's race? "Our car was pretty good. We definitely had a car that could've won the race. We just didn't like those cautions. It killed us. We couldn't get going on the restarts. Our car was a long-run car, and it just could never come in. We had that debris caution with about 30 to go and that just killed us."
What happened late in the race when you went from the lead to third? "As soon as we came in and took those four tires and came out with the lead, we pulled away within the first couple laps, and it looked like we would just cruise on to the win. Then we had the debris caution, and that changed everything. More importantly, we could not just get going on the restarts. We could not take off. We got beat today."
How did your car handle in today's race? "It was good. Our car was good. We worked it into a top-seven car early. We worked it into a top-five car around halfway. Then after that, just every pit stop we got a little better, a little better, started making up positions. We knew if we could get past the 17 (Matt Kenseth) in the pits that we were going to check out. Once we got around him, our car was just awesome. It was really, really good. You know, we looked good with 30 laps to go. After the last pit stop, that was the best my car had been all day. We had that debris caution. That just completely changed the complexity of the race. It seems like it glazed over my rear tires because after that I had no rear grip whatsoever."
Can you talk about the late restart with Carl Edwards and the last lap with Jimmie Johnson? "We struggled to get going on the restarts, which is fine. We were still okay. But, the 99 (Carl Edwards) was coming. I think I was in the middle of the track versus going high or low and he hit us. When he did, it knocked us down the race track. He chose what lane he wanted to be in when he hit us. Once you get the guy on the outside on the restart, it's over. That second groove is really, really good for a few laps. Once he knocked us down to the bottom right there, it was over with. We knew -- we conceded that. The only way to do it was to do it back to him. But, our car would not take off. It would not take of f at all. The last lap with Jimmie (Johnson), he just had position on the outside. Our car was really loose to begin with. With him beside us, we almost took him and myself out."
Is the one thing about this car that you can get it in a slide and save it like you were able to do today? "Yeah, the pace was slow. I told my crew chief (Mike Ford) during the course of the day that the pace was so slow, I thought NASCAR was just going to black flag us all for not making minimum speed. We were running 34-something, mid 34s, something (lap times). That's just a horrid pace around this race track. I like it when you get to slide around. I like it when the driver's got to make up a difference. This is a race track where you can do that. But, it's just a product of we have a hard tire, so you're going to have a natural slide. This track is very, very coarse. The whole tire is not on the race track. You're running on top of the rocks. So this track, it's very hard. But, the car does make it easier. It h as so much side force. It's almost like a truck. If you do get it sideways, you can kind of control it a little bit easier."
Are you frustrated despite the top-three finish today? "Yeah, it's frustrating. This has not been my best race track. We have run well here. We have run third to fifth here before. We had a car capable of running third to fifth, but had issues. We had a power steering failure in the spring where we had a good car. By the stats, this is a terrible track for us. So, obviously that gets you excited. With 60 to go, I was thinking if we're going to win, we definitely did not put this on our calendar to go out and feel like we had a really good shot at winning. We knew we could run well. It takes a really, really good car to win here. You really got to have a great car. We had it today -- just let it slip."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Was this a hard fought top-five finish today? "Yeah, it was hard fought, for sure. I'm not sure if it was well-earned. The guys kept digging in and Steve (Addington, crew chief) kept making changes to the best of his knowledge -- the best he could to get us further up there. We just didn't have anything today. We were out to lunch there a long ways and made the most of a solid run. Happy with that I guess -- a top- five. If we can keep finishing in the top-five -- we need to start running in the top-five and then the wins should come back our way."
What does this top-five finish mean? "To finish there (top-five) that is great, that's fine -- it's a good points day. We're not in the points anymore so we're trying to get some wins we have to run in the top-five to contend for those."
Why were you 'out to lunch' during the race? "The car was terrible on long runs. It would run fine on the short run -- about eight laps or so -- and it was just junk from there on out. We had to get as much ground as we could make up on the start of the run because we would just get run over late in the run."
Did you think you had a top-five car today? "We finished fifth today, we didn't have a top-five run. We've still got some work to do. It's a testament to the guys sticking in there all day and having good pit stops and being able to keep us up there all day on pit road and not make any mistakes. Steve Addington (crew chief) making some good calls on top of the box to keep trying to make the car better. I know that it was a handful out there for myself. I'm sure it's a handful up there o the pit box for him (Steve Addington) to watch. We made the most of it today."
TONY STEWART, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What did your team do today to try to improve the handling of your car? "I did everything I knew how to do with that thing to get it to handle. It just wouldn't respond the way we needed it to."
How do you think your race went this afternoon? "We started out the race so extremely loose that the car was almost undriveable. We kept working on it as the race went on and we got it from extremely loose to regular loose. From there, we were able to keep up with the pace better and not fall so far behind. We still didn't finish where we would have liked, but we did finish the race and getting these laps is really important for myself and the team as I learn to drive these Cup cars."
DAVE BLANEY, No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing
What happened late in the race that forced you out of the race? "I don't really know. I slipped off (turn) two and they kind of got on both sides of me and I don't know if I drove down on Jeff (Burton), the 31, or what happened. I really don't -- I have to see it. I hate we tore up some race cars though."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Little Debbie Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
KEN SCHRADER, No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry, Hall of Fame Racing
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
-credit: toyota motorsports