Camry driver Clint Bowyer earned his second victory of the season in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Richmond International Raceway.
With his victory, Bowyer secured the sixth seed for the 10-race 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' championship playoff with 2,006 points.
In addition to Bowyer, Denny Hamlin earned the top seed for the 2012 Chase (2,012 points) and Martin Truex Jr. holds the 10th seed (2,000).
Bowyer led the field one time for 88 laps (of 400) en route to the victory on the 0.75-mile short track in Virginia.
Hamlin (202) and Truex (seven) also led laps in the race.
The victory in the 300-mile event marked the eighth win of the season for Toyota and the 47th since Toyota joined the series in 2007.
Mark Martin (third) also recorded a top-five finish at Richmond.
Other Camry drivers in the field included Kyle Busch (16th), Hamlin (18th), Landon Cassill (19th), Truex (21st), Bobby Labonte (25th), Travis Kvapil (27th), Joey Logano (30th), Joe Nemechek (38th) and Mike Bliss (40th).
CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 1st
How was your race tonight? "Man, I tell you the last couple of times we've walked in -- Sonoma I ran out of gas doing a burnout too. Thank you to these fans. This is a late night they stuck it out with us, went through the weather with all of us. Unbelievable. Thank you Juan Pablo (Montoya) for wrecking me and then winning me the race. Thank you. Unbelievable for 5-hour ENERGY, all of our partners, Sprint for putting this on. To win this last race before this Chase got off -- we had a bad race last weekend. Had a lot of adversity we had to bounce through. Just kind of bummed out as a team as a whole coming into this race. This is a good way to get things bounced back headed into this Chase. You can't ask for a better race team. MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), my teammates, everybody that is a part of this -- it's just unbelievable."
What happened with Juan Pablo Montoya? "God bless Juan Pablo (Montoya). It was stupid really. He was -- I don't know how many laps down he was -- I know he was at least one and we were running second or third there and he just got into us and knocked my left rear (tire) down. But, luckily I got spun out down there, got the caution and didn't go a lap down and that was the thing that won us the race. You never know. You never give up in this sport. "
How long were you saving fuel? "That's like two or three times that I've won I've walked into victory lane, so I'm just going to make that my deal. Whether it's out or not, I'm just going to park it out there and walk in here. Just tried to save as much as could. I tell you what, there for a while I lifted and it was saving so much tire I wouldn't spin the tires up off. I was lifting way early and the car was rolling. I wasn't using any brake, so it didn't over-temperature the front tires and the thing just kept turning and I actually picked up there for probably 30, 40 laps. It was starting to go away pretty quick there at the end and I was just trying to move around and keep the thing rolling."
How does it feel to enter the Chase as the sixth seed? "Yeah, that's cool. Just really proud of everybody at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), my teammates, Brian Pattie (crew chief). This is a brand new race team this year and this is awesome to be in victory lane."
BRIAN PATTIE, crew chief, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Did you gamble tonight? "The last two months we've had really good speed in our cars. I've been calling races since about Indy conservatively and you've got to get in before you can play. I told the driver (Clint Bowyer) we'd gamble some more once we got in. We got in last week, so we gambled tonight and it paid off."
When did you start saving fuel? "My engineers were working overtime with the mathematics trying to figure out how much we had to go and if they could catch us or not. We started saving with like 90 (laps) to go. Then we were running tremendous lap times, so right then I knew we were going to be in really good shape. Saved the right front tire for the long run. I'm blessed it all worked out."
What does this say about what your team has in store for the Chase? "Better watch out."
MICHAEL WALTRIP, co-owner, Michael Waltrip Racing
How do you feel about having two cars make the Chase? "So proud of what we've put together with the people and that's what's it's all about is people and Mark Martin to come over and he's really made us better. (Clint) Bowyer has made us better. (Martin) Truex (Jr.) was lightning fast tonight."
How far has your organization come? "I'm half of the ownership. Luckily, Rob K auffman (co-owner) is here with us too. When we won in Sonoma with Clint (Bowyer), Rob wasn't there, but he called us in victory lane. In 2007, when we started this team, I made it all the way to March till I figured out I was broke. That was pretty good. I met Rob in April. He bought half of the team in October. Since then we've just been making steady progress. Over the last year, just the addition of Clint, the addition of Brian (Pattie, crew chief), this team, Mark Martin -- the job he's done for us -- everybody's just rallied together. It's just a really great working atmosphere. I'm thankful for tonight. I'm obviously really happy with having two cars in the Chase. My inspiration for having a team from the beginning was Dale Earnhardt. I always wanted to have a team like Dale had. So anytime something goes good, I always think about what all he meant to me. We're thankful."
LEE WHITE, president and general manager, TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development)
How pleased is Toyota to have three Camrys in the Chase? "We are happy to have three Camrys in the Chase this season and that was a great win by Clint (Bowyer) tonight. Although there were challenges we had to face this season, including the introduction of EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection) and the repaving of several tracks, this was a great year for Toyota, TRD and our race team partners. We've had a great year and look forward to making the Chase an exclamation point on our season. It's exciting to have Denny (Hamlin) as the top seed going into the Chase and two Michael Waltrip Racing cars competing for this year's championship. This marks the first time that MWR has been in the Chase. We're eager to get to Chicago, because we think we've got a good chance to make some noise in these last 10 races."
What does it mean for Michael Waltrip Racing to be in the Chase? "It's great to see Martin (Truex Jr.) earn a spot in the Chase and achieve the results he and the team have worked so hard to reach. It's also quite an accomplishment for Clint (Bowyer) to make the Chase in his first season with a new team, and his first year driving a Toyota. It means so much for us to have a team from Toyota's freshman class grow to achieve these kind of results."
MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 3rd
What does this mean for Michael Waltrip Racing? "Well, they have more confidence than when I first got there, but everything else is really the same. They had great people in place. We really found our niche. We really lean on one another. We have great teamwork there -- the best teamwork that I've ever seen. The atmosphere at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) is serious, but light. It's not heavy. We're having a blast. We have really great teamwork, really great people there. I couldn't be more proud to have both teammates in the Chase. When I came to MWR, I just wanted to try to be able to help them achieve that and maybe get lucky and stumble into a win myself. We've been pretty close tonight, pretty close at Pocono. I'm having a blast."
Can Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. win in the Chase? "They certainly can. Martin (Truex Jr.) is on the verge of winning every week -- this race too. He had an unfortunate set of circumstances catch him out there, but he could have contended to win this race tonight as well. He is on the verge of a hot streak. Obviously, you've seen Clint. You saw what Tony Stewart did last year and these guys are performing really, really well going in. Whoever gets on a hot streak can do it. It doesn't matter. Definitely we have the capability, but who knows what will happen."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 16th
What are your thoughts on missing the Chase? "We missed. That's it. Plain and simple."
What did Joe Gibbs say to you after the race? "Handle it the right way. There's no right way to handle this situation."
DAVE ROGERS, crew chief, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Did the call to not pit when it began to rain cost your team the Chase? "The Chase is more than one race, but we certainly were in a position to capitalize and make it, but year that call -- I blew it. There's no two ways to look at it. I'm pretty honest. I evaluate myself as hard as I evaluate my guys and I gave one up today. But, hats off to the 24 (Jeff Gordon) crew. Alan Gustafson (24 crew chief), Jeff (Gordon) -- they hung in there. They fought. They got behind early and they could've easily folded and they didn't. They deserve to be in the Chase and I'm happy for them."
Is this tough to take from a personal standpoint? "Yeah, I'm tough on myself. I just gave up a chance at a championship for this team, for Kyle (Busch) and for everyone at M&M's, 450 employees at Joe Gibbs (Racing) that worked so hard this year, had a lot of confidence and really hoping for some good things in the Chase and I feel like I let them down. That hurts. It's always personal. But, you know what, they are great guys and I know they're going to stand behind me. Great managing staff is going to stand behind me, a great driver and we're just going to stand behind the 11 (Denny Hamlin) car and MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) guys and try to make sure Toyota wins this championship."
Did you get a chance to talk to Kyle Busch after the race? "You know, we were both speechless. We went up there and looked at each other and nodded at each other and just acknowledged that we'll talk later. Both of us are hurting, but we didn't say much. Kyle (Busch) did a good job of keeping his composure and took it on the chin like a man and went back to his bus."
What did Joe Gibbs say to you in the meeting in the hauler? "I work for the greatest team owner in the business. A guy that's been in the fire. He (Joe Gibbs) knows how to call them. He knows how to win them. He's lost them before. So, he shared some of his failures and some of his successes with me and gave me some words of encouragement and then we talked about how we could be better. The goal is to get better every time, turn a negative into a positive. So, we spent a lot of time talking about that, 'Hey, what can we do to make this race team stronger?' The lessons we learned and how can we be better from it. Joe is an awesome guy. I love working for the man. If I was Joe I probably wouldn't have handled that conversation so graciously. I would've been yelling and screaming at me, but he's wonderful. He gave me some words of encouragement and left it at that."
JOE GIBBS, team owner, Joe Gibbs Racing
What did you tell Kyle Busch when you leaned in the race car? "I didn't really talk to Kyle (Busch) much. I just -- Dave, I was up there with him just sharing the disappointment. I think for all of us here you just feel bad because of all that was put into this. Again, this is pro sports and the best people in the world competing at this level. It can happen to you. Just very disappointed. I hate it for M&M's and for all of us on the race team -- Kyle, all of us. It was just a real disappointing night. It's one of those things where it's kind of like you can have the agony and defeat. That's kind of what happened to us tonight."
What did you tell Dave Rogers after the race? "We love Dave Rogers (crew chief). I've got to tell you I think he's one of the brightest and the best. I'm not going to share what I said to anybody, it's just that we were there, we were sharing the moment together, we were in this together and I think we have a great tight-knit team here. We all go up together and if we have a tough night, we all have a tough night together."
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 18th
Do you think the lessons that you learned back in 2010 are going to benefit you this year? "Yeah, what took us out of the championship in 2010 really were a lot of different circumstances. I won't treat it any differently about the way I drive. I think I'll be a little bit more aggressive on restarts and not give up those one or two points when they really, really count. That will change, but for the most part I think I'll just be a lot more relaxed this time around. Obviously, our stuff is really good right now -- as good as it was in 2010. What do you got to lose? We've never won a championship. We're going out there trying to win our first. I'm going to race week-to-week, not think about a championship until I get to Homestead (Miami Speedway)."
How disappointing is it to not have your teammate Kyle Busch in the Chase? "It sucks to not have Kyle in the Chase. It's important for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) to have cars in the Chase. That's Joe's (Gibbs) and J.D.'s (Gibbs) livelihood. They don't have any real businesses outside of that. They need cars in the Chase to make a living. So it's tough. That part of it's tough. It's up to us to go out there and try to perform and get them a championship with one of their cars."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 21st
How do you measure your odds in the Chase? "I'm going to be honest with you, the way our cars are running and as fast as we've been the last six or seven weeks we're dangerous. I feel like tonight we had a shot at the win. The way the race played out was kind of crazy and we made probably a poor decision in not pitting there, but we've got the speed to do it each and every week. Different race tracks from here to -- mile-and-a-half program is really strong. Man, I feel good. I know we're kind of an underdog and not a lot of people expect us to do much. It's a good position to be in. We just need to be smart, make good decisions and our NAPA Toyotas are strong enough to do this thing. Looking forward to going out and having some fun and hopefully we'll put together 10 good races and be in the hunt."
Do you think you run well at the Chase tracks? "I think we're good. I think we've got a lot of good tracks in the Chase. I look at Martinsville is not one of our greatest, but we've made a lot of strides there and we ran top-five in the spring. Had a good test there a month ago. Talladega is a wild card for everybody, obviously. Charlotte is probably the only other one I don't have a lot of confidence at. Everywhere else we go, I feel like we're a threat not only to go run good, but to go after some wins. I know we haven't been to victory lane yet this year, but we've been damn close and we we're knocking on that door again tonight. We were sitting right there with a chance and just got to keep doing that and keep being smart and hopefully things will go our way.
Source: Toyota Motorsports