Hamlin leads Toyota drivers in Phoenix 500 with second place finish

Denny Hamlin (second) was the first Toyota Camry driver to the checkered flag in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Hamlin led the field twice for 46 laps (of 319).

Kyle Busch, who led the field four times for a race-high 237 circuits, crossed the finish line third.

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 2nd

How was your race today? "The track is just so slick. We're running on such hard tires. You can't get a grip on it and it makes for exciting racing like we saw today. I'm proud of our FedEx Ground Toyota Camry team. We felt bad -- wish we could have pulled off the sweep here. But, still one-two is pretty good."

Can you describe today's run? "Treacherous. The race track is extremely treacherous. You can't -- with these hard tires -- you just can't get a grip on the race track. I did a tire test with Goodyear here not too long ago on 2013 car. I think they got some ideas that's going to make it a little bit better, but right now -- holy cow, it's a mess. What's happening is everyone's just sliding around and sliding into each other. Of course, it makes for excitement on TV, but obviously it also makes for championship implications as well."

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 3rd

How was your race today? "Great day. Guys gave me an awesome car. Just gave it away at the end. Just didn't pick the right lane. It's my fault. So, it seems to be the way the year goes."

Were there any issues on the final restart? "No. Kevin (Harvick) got out a little bit on me. Denny (Hamlin) got alongside of me. Just made me really loose trying to battle with the 11 (Denny Hamlin) so I couldn't even drive forward at all. We just basically handed the race on a silver platter to the 29 (Kevin Harvick)."

Did the paper on your grill midway through the race cause any problems? "No. It didn't cause a problem. We got it off there and temps stayed fine."

How good was your race car? "Great car. M&M's guys gave me an awesome piece. Unfortunately there, I gave the race away. I hate it for my guys. They work so hard and they dug hard this weekend. Obviously, having a car that's the class of the field -- you expect to win and you're supposed to win. I guess I just didn't know how to win it today."

Do you think the official's calls during the last few laps were correct? "I saw the yellow lights flickering before (Kevin) Harvick got to the start-finish line, so I believe they called it right. And, there on that last one, I mean there was oil and everything on the exit of turn four and we all about -- well the front of us about crashed. So, I can't imagine what was going on behind me. Evidently, there was more carnage going on back there. I'm not sure if they had time to react to all of that. But, granted you would expect that they would see all of that and see the oil slick. It wasn't small by any means. It was three feet wide."

MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 10th

How was your race? "Wow what a wild day. I'm fine but that was a pretty hard hit. We'll take a top-10 finish. My team worked like heck throughout the weekend to get us this top-10. I couldn't be more proud."

CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 28th

What happened between you and Jeff Gordon? "I mean the racing -- it's just a shame. The last person in the world you want to get into anything with is Jeff Gordon on the race track. I mean, you're down there racing, the track's extremely slick, we're all on tires -- I didn't even need to pass him. That's the thing. All I was doing is riding around biding my time. The only thing I had to do is keep the 5 car (Kasey Kahne) within reach, so for him to act like that -- I mean, I barely touched him and then I feel him get into turn three and try to turn me and he missed and then next thing I know Brett's (Griffin, spotter) telling me on the radio that he's trying to -- he's waiting on me. It's pretty embarrassing for a four-time champion -- and what I consider one of the best this sport's ever seen -- to act like that is just completely ridiculous."

What did NASCAR say when you met them after the race? "I don't know. There's nothing you can do to fix it now. It's over with. You've got to go on to Homestead (-Miami Speedway). I've got to try to beat the 5 car (Kasey Kahne), but I mean that was my opportunity to try to get myself back in the championship hunt. When you're disrupting a championship run like that, it's too bad. They asked us not to do that in the driver's meeting and there's usually a lot of respect there. Like I said, it's crazy -- I didn't even need to pass him. I was plenty content riding behind him and he slipped up down there, I get under him and here he comes back. I just barely touched him. I literally barely rubbed him and then all the sudden I feel him trying to retaliate and -- I don't know -- missed or something and hit the wall and made himself look like a fool."

Will you retaliate? "We just have to see."

Did Jeff Gordon say anything to you in the meeting with NASCAR after the race? "Not really -- it's pretty soon to be talking to him (Jeff Gordon)."

Should NASCAR penalize Jeff Gordon? "You guys have been covering this sport a long time. Same circumstances happened -- what was it, last year or year before and disrupted a championship and I don't understand how that's any different. Like I said, it's over with and done and have to go to Homestead (-Miami Speedway) and do the best we can."

MICHAEL WALTRIP, owner, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing

What did you see happen between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon? "I've never seen anything like what Jeff Gordon did to a guy racing for a championship. Cowardly, chicken move by someone that has raced for championships before, and knows how important every position is. They barely brushed on the back straightaway and he waits -- he purposely waits and tells everybody he's waiting and wrecks our car and our hopes for racing for a championship. I'm beside myself. I can't believe that he would get involved in the championship battle."

What happened in the garage after the incident? "We're just trying to keep everybody calm. It's just a lot of emotion -- a lot of guys that have way more time and effort invested than the act that Jeff Gordon took to take care of a problem. What a -- I just don't know what to say. I'm beside myself to think that that could happen."

After Jimmie Johnson's 'issue' did you believe your team was racing for a championship? "Yeah, we were in there still."

Did you expect NASCAR to issue any penalties? "I don't know what to expect. I can't believe that someone would purposely wait and crash a guy racing for a championship. Everything else was just pushing and shoving and wasn't any big deal. If you focus on what happened on the track, that's where the story is -- not someone trying to make something out of some guys pushing each other."

Why did the No. 15 crew react the way they did after the incident? "It's just boys venting, showing their frustration trying to express their feelings. The men and women that work on these cars have way more invested in what goes on than people realize and people appreciate and when a coward makes a move like that on the race track they just see all their hopes and dreams go up in flames, literally -- they're going to be frustrated."

BRIAN PATTIE, crew chief, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing

What caused the incident between Clint Bowyer and Jeff Gordon? "I don't know. All I know is we were running top-five there and 24 (Jeff Gordon) kind of went up there. I don't know. We must have got into him and he retaliated -- so we'll see what happens here. Post-race got a little exciting. Obviously, it doesn't look like there's too many Christmas cards going back and forth from the 15 (Clint Bowyer) and the 24."

How do you expect NASCAR to react? "Well, if they're consistent, they'll park him. They parked the 18 truck (Kyle Busch) at (Texas) -- when they retaliated. We'll see what happens. I like to be consistent. I try to be as fair as I can, so hopefully they are too."

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 43rd

What happened to send you to the garage? "Just something in the engine. It's a shame. We had an awesome race car this weekend. I felt like we had a shot at challenging for a win, but it wasn't meant to be. I can't say enough about TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and what they've been able to do for us this year -- their engines have been incredible. This is the first problem we've had all year long and they've done an awesome job at giving us really good horsepower. Last year, we struggled on the engine side of things as far as power goes and this year they've done such a great job. It's a shame it always happens when you have a really good race car, but at the end of the day they've done awesome. And, this is just a small little thing and I'm sure it's a parts failure or something like that."

When did you realize you had an 'issue'? "Well, the engine started laying down on like the second lap and something broke in the top end and just started eating itself up, so we're done for the day. It's just a shame. We've had such a good race car all weekend long and really felt like we were going to have a shot at maybe challenging for the win today. It wasn't meant to be. The NAPA Toyota was really good all weekend. The guys did a great job. I also have got to say all the guys at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) -- they've done such an incredible job all year long with our engine program. This is the first problem we've had and we've had great horsepower all year long. Really struggled with that last year and they really stepped it up, so I want to thank all those guys. Just one of those deals -- probably a parts failure or something."

Toyota Motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Michael Waltrip , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Clint Bowyer , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , Toyota Racing
Article type Race report
Tags bowyer, busch, gibb, hamlin, pattie, phoenix, toyota, truex, waltrip