Denny Hamlin won Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Darlington Raceway, becoming the first driver since Mark Martin in 1993 to sweep both races at the 1.366-mile track. It is the third win of the season for Hamlin, the 11th of...
Denny Hamlin won Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Darlington Raceway, becoming the first driver since Mark Martin in 1993 to sweep both races at the 1.366-mile track.
It is the third win of the season for Hamlin, the 11th of his career and eighth victory in a Toyota Camry.
Hamlin led four times for 104 (of 367) laps in the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 20 FedEx Express Camry.
It is the 25th NSCS victory for Toyota since the start of the 2007 season.
Kyle Busch (seventh) and Brian Vickers (10th) also posted top-10 finishes for Toyota Saturday night.
Camry drivers David Reutimann (11th), Martin Truex Jr. (19th), Marcos Ambrose (25th), Joey Logano (27th), Scott Speed (28th), Max Papis (29th), Robby Gordon (38th), Todd Bodine (39th), Michael McDowell (40th), Dave Blaney (42nd) and Reed Sorenson (43rd) were also in the field.
With the finish, Busch (third) remains the highest-ranked Toyota driver in the unofficial NSCS point standings following Darlington -- 113 points behind leader Kevin Harvick. The victory enabled Hamlin to move up one spot to sixth in points, while Truex (13th), Logano (19th) and Vickers (20th) are also in the top-20 in points.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How was your race tonight? "A great day for us. To pull off the sweep on Mother's Day Weekend -- I gotta say Happy Mother's Day to my mom, Mary Lou. Just a great weekend for us. We had a top-two car all day. Us, Jeff (Gordon) and the other Jeff (Burton) were really strong and we put ourselves in position. The pit crew got me out first and that was the key. Those guys just did a phenomenal job. Just gotta thank all the fans for coming out, it was a great crowd today. I gotta thank FedEx and all their employees. Sprint, the No. 11 team, everyone at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), Toyota, Coke, WileyX and Gillette."
What did your mom say in the car in Victory Lane? "She said, 'How about that sweep?'"
Can you put this win into words? "You really can't. It was just an unbelievable day for us. We just put ourselves in position to win this race. The pit crew did a phenomenal job getting me off pit road first and that was the key to this win. Our car was so fast on that last run that we might have been able to get by those guys anyways, but we just played it smart. Mike (Ford, crew chief) did a good job adjusting on the car. We just went back and forth with it all day and fine-tuned it to perfection right at the end."
How did your car respond on two-tire stops? "Right there at the end, it was the best it had been all day, and that's all you can ask for -- when you need it, it's there. Mike (Ford, crew chief) just adjusted on it perfectly and like I said, that last two-tire stop was the key for us. But, we set ourselves up for that the second-to-last stop. We took four when everyone else took two. I felt like we ended on the best tires and it showed up at the end."
Can you continue this momentum? "I don't see why it can't. Like I told these guys (team), all we do is win."
Does winning early in the season give you confidence for later in the year when it really counts? "Well, during the course of my career I felt like I missed out on a lot of wins the first probably two to three years of my career. Probably 10 of them I should not have lost had I had the mindset that I have right now, what it takes to win. I think the only difference before when we weren't winning as much to what we're doing right now is just my mindset and knowing what I need to do to win the race at the end. So this is the kind of winning pace that I felt like we should have been on right from the get-go of my career, now we're just hitting that stride. It's just taken me a while to understand how these races play out, what it takes to win. Now I feel like I have a better understanding of that. I think it's gonna continue to go on a roll the way it is."
MIKE FORD, crew chief, No. 20 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How was the race? "Coming into this race, it's very bothersome knowing tires don't fall off and you're gonna have to make the right calls to have the strategy at the right times. First half of the race, our car didn't respond to two tires very well. We knew it was going to have to come down to a two-tire stop. We gave up some track position in the middle of the race leading the race to try to work on our car because it wasn't accepting two tires. Knowing that you're gonna have to have the track position late in the race, you want to set yourself up for that. It could have very easily gone the other way. We could have got in traffic, caught up in something, lost some position, not been in the lead pack to be able to make a call. So it's very difficult race to call when the tires don't fall away."
Are you worried that your team is too good too early? "I'll be honest with you, knowing what we've got coming later in the season, what we're working on -- we're working on the back half of the season right now. Honestly, I'm surprised how strong we are right now. Not to spill the beans, but we're working on Chase stuff right now. We're racing things that we were racing at the end of last year so we can concentrate on the later months of this year. I'm personally surprised that we're running as strong as we are."
J.D. GIBBS, president, Joe Gibbs Racing
How special is this win for Denny at Darlington? "Six years ago we took Denny down here, his first Nationwide race was at Darlington. I figured, we'll give him a shot. The odds are long he's going to do well, get a shot at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). His first race here, when he came and tested the week before, he tore up everything. I thought, 'This isn't going to go well.' He finished eighth his first race. That is when we gave him the shot the next year to run the full program. For you, it really began, so it's kind of special tying it in for me at least."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Doublemint Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 7th
What adjustments did you try on the last pit stop? "We just needed to tighten it up. We were too loose on the get-go of runs and I couldn't hang with the 11 (Denny Hamlin), so to try to beat him, we made a change. We just went too far. We just got way too tight there that last run."
How important was track position tonight? "It was important. Everybody took two (tires) at the end, they all knew how important it was. I sucked on restarts tonight and fell back to third before I even got to turn one. It didn't much matter. I wasn't going to hold anybody off."
Are you comfortable with your points position to try some different things in the next few weeks? "No. We just need to keep going with what we know how to do and try to win a couple more."
Was tonight's performance the most competitive you felt this year? "Yeah, it was the best we've been in a while. I'm really proud of the guys. It was the best car we've had. It was the most competitive we've been in qualifying in a while and in race trim. We made some mistakes. We lost some spots -- different decisions whether it be pit road or different things. A lot of spots we lost are just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 56 (Martin Truex Jr.) missed a shift or I'm not sure what happened -- we lost five or six spots there. There was another restart with the same thing and we lost a bunch of spots. There was a bunch of times in the race where you're just wrong place wrong time but we had a good car all night. We just never could get the track position at the right time and it showed. We needed to be a little bit better at the start of the runs. We were too tight to start with but we were really good at the end of the run. We've got to figure out why that is. But other than that I was proud of them."
How much did the contact with Jeff Gordon affect your car? "It did affect our car. I think we got it cleaned up mostly. It still affected it some probably the whole race. I don't know what happened there. I gave him (Jeff Gordon) plenty of room and he just slid up into me and I couldn't go any higher. I was against the fence."
Does this give you confidence going forward? "It feels good for sure. I feel like we're back on track and headed in the right direction. For the first time in a while I felt like we had a really competitive car to drive to the lead and take it. Other than Talladega of course. It was a good night."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 11th
How was your run tonight? "It was just a struggle. We were loose the whole race and just couldn't get on the other side of it. We made it better, but the track changes as it goes and we couldn't keep up with it. We didn't get it where it needed to be."
Did your car get better as the race went on? "We got it good towards the end and then we pit and the yellow comes out. That's the way our season has gone. I mean it happens -- we go from top five to outside the top 15. Then you have got to battle back there. We just weren't as good as we needed to be because we kept trying to make the car tighter and tighter and we were getting better, but we just ran out of time to at least get back in the top 10."
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 19th
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Kingsford/Scott Branded Products Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
Finishing Position: 25th
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 27th
MAX PAPIS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing
Finishing Position: 29th
ROBBY GORDON, No. 7 BAMvip.com/James Otto/Whitney Duncan Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports
Finishing Position: 38th
TODD BODINE, No. 64 Little Joe's Auto Sales Toyota Camry, Gunselman Motorsports
Finishing Position: 39th
MICHAEL McDOWELL, No. 55 Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports
Finishing Position: 40th
DAVE BLANEY, No. 66 Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports
Finishing Position: 42nd
REED SORENSON, No. 32 Toyota Camry, Braun Racing
Finishing Position: 43rd
-source: toyota motorsports