Camry driver Denny Hamlin earned his fourth victory of 2009 in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Florida's Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hamlin led three times for 71 (of 267) laps en route to his first career NSCS win at ...
Camry driver Denny Hamlin earned his fourth victory of 2009 in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Florida's Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hamlin led three times for 71 (of 267) laps en route to his first career NSCS win at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The win was the 11th NSCS victory for Toyota this season and first for a Camry driver at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Hamlin gained three positions in the unofficial NSCS driver standings with his win, moving him to fifth-place.
Camry driver Joey Logano earned the 2009 NSCS Raybestos Rookie of the Year award. At 19, Logano is the youngest driver to earn the award in Cup Series history.
Toyota drivers Kyle Busch (eighth), David Reutimann (15th), and Brian Vickers (20th) also scored top-20 finishes.
Other Camry drivers in the field included Joey Logano (24th), Scott Speed (27th), David Gilliland (29th), Michael Waltrip (30th), Marcos Ambrose (35th), Robby Gordon (39th), Terry Labonte (42nd) and Michael McDowell (43rd).
In addition to Hamlin, Toyota drivers Vickers (12th), Busch (13th), Reutimann (16th), Ambrose (18th) and Logano (20th) also finished the season in the top-20 in the unofficial NSCS driver standings.
This season, Camry drivers earned 11 wins, 10 poles, 42 top-fives, 75 top-10 finishes and led 2,857 laps.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How happy are you to finish out the season with a victory? "I tell you, we're going be there I promise you. I promise you the next couple of years we're going to win a championship. I've just got to thank everyone. I've got to thank Sprint. I've got to thank FedEx, the fans. They've stuck it out this year. They've supported our sport. Coke, Wiley X, Toyota, everyone at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). And congratulations to Michael Waltrip on a great career. I was trying to keep him close the last couple laps so I could show some dignity and give him his life back. He's done a lot for our sport and I've got to say congratulations on a great career for him."
What does it mean for you to beat Jimmie Johnson in five of the 10 Chase races? "With three DNF's -- you look at the final point standings and call a DNF 100 points and we were right there. But those guys have been the standard. They haven't made mistakes and that's who we ultimately want to beat is the guys that are a dominating force like them. I think we're showing that we have that strength to compete with those guys. It's just that they've done a phenomenal job. Four in a row for them and I couldn't be happier for him (Jimmie Johnson). There's no more deserving champion than them."
Are you happy with the 2009 season? "It's been a great year. To get four wins and to win on a track that people don't necessarily expect us to win on is a great deal. I've just got to thank all of the fans for coming out and helping to support the Nationwide race and today. Starting this car in back and coming to the front was a show. We hope to be where Jimmie (Johnson) is at in a couple of years and we're showing that we do have a little bit of strength."
Was your car good from the start? "Yeah, that's the thing is we kept working on it. Me and Mike (Ford, crew chief) went back and forth with adjustments all day and just kept getting it a little bit better. Then we'd go take a step back and he'd (Mike Ford, crew chief) make it two steps better the next run. That shows what communication that we have between us and how strong our relationship is. I don't see us getting any weaker anytime soon."
How big is it for you to take this win into 2010? "It gives me a reason to celebrate tonight, that's for sure. I've also got to say congratulations to Michael Waltrip on a great career. He's been an innovator in our sport. He came up with a lot of great ideas for our sport and has been an influence for myself so congratulations to him on his career and hopefully we'll see him around soon."
MIKE FORD, crew chief, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What do you think about the confidence that Denny Hamlin started the season with? "You talk about Denny (Hamlin) having confidence when we started the season, it's humbling and I think the last couple years have been humbling. It kind of all went together and Denny's confidence and his driving and realizing that he needed to take a leadership role in the team and work through the issues rather than stomp feet, walk away and be frustrated. Being able to work through issues came a long way and that to me is the difference and that was the strongest point to our season was gaining that unity. Moving forward, I think it allows you to try things. We set up for the Chase, it wasn't haphazard. If you look at the second half of the season, we hit a stride. We felt like we learned a couple things. We peaked early the last two years and we were kind of afraid to try things and that wasn't the case this year. We continued to learn throughout, but we put ourselves in good position to start it. I think everyone being on the same page and being able to work through problems, it made it a lot easier to make gains during the season and during the races with Denny and myself being on the same page."
J.D. GIBBS, president, Joe Gibbs Racing
Are you encouraged by Denny Hamlin's performance this season? "What's encouraging for our future and just watching Denny's (Hamlin) and Mike's (Ford, crew chief) leadership at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and the way they work together and don't get panicky. We didn't have the best car and the way that they make changes in the race and over the season, you'll really see impressive things. Really looking forward to next year. The pit crew was really impressive. We are real excited to watch Joey (Logano) following in the footsteps of Tony (Stewart) and Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin) by winning the Rookie of the Year."
Do you think it helped Denny Hamlin on the track once he took a leadership role at Joe Gibbs Racing? "You forget that Denny finished third in the first year. It kind of just came naturally. I think the years following he (Denny Hamlin) would kind of push hard in some areas and tried some things you shouldn't try. I think what we've kind of learned is they've been watching you guys kind of mature and really take a leadership role. I think Denny (Hamlin) was in the sport and Mike (Ford, crew chief) we put in our shop and really the future is exciting for us. I think really both of those guys work well together. They're quiet and they're not going to talk a lot about stuff. They just kind of get it done. That's what encourages me kind of watching the next several years coming up for JGR."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 8th
What happened at the end of the race? "I just got beat on the restart. We had a chance to win the race and I feel like I let the guys down. They deserved to win. I was trying to catch Denny (Hamlin) after that and ended up overdriving the car and scraped the fence. It's so hard to catch someone when they get clean air like that with these cars. I was just holding on to it there at the end and got all I could. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys gave me a great car. We started off really loose off but we just kept working on it. The guys were flawless on pit road all night long and I really wanted to finish the season right with a win for M&M's and Toyota. It's just disappointing because we had a shot to win and we didn't get it done."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael
Finishing Position: 15th
How do you feel about finishing your first Chase? "Getting in our first Chase was pretty exciting. The Chase itself sucked. We really dropped the ball once we got in the Chase. I felt like we learned a lot from it and we'll be able to take it into next year. Tonight, we never were that great. We were really lacking track position and it seemed like every time we were in position to get good track position or when we got some was when our car was at our worst. Every time we would lose (track position) was when our car would be at its best. It was just a struggle all night we weren't horrible, but we weren't that great either."
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 24th
What does it mean to you to win the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award? "It's really cool to get the Raybestos Rookie of the Year. It was obviously one of our big goals. I've got to thank The Home Depot for sticking behind me throughout the year. We had a real rough start and finished 20th in the points which I guess is okay. In the beginning of the season if you told me that's where we are going to finish I would've been ecstatic about it but now you always want better. We just seemed like to tonight we weren't real good. We started plugging away to the front. We got to about 13th and the car wasn't that bad and under a pit stop somehow the end plate on the wing got hit and knocked off so I had to come back in and replace that and go back out back in the back. I tried to plug along but it was tough. After about five or six laps most everyone ran about the same lap times so it was hard to make your way back to the front. We did what we had to do tonight and I just want to thank all of my guys for sticking with me throughout the year."
How did you keep your frame of mind positive during your early season struggles? "It was tough at times believe me. The media wasn't saying the greatest things but if anything it was more motivating. You really wanted to keep pushing it and become a better race car driver. At the time I was running good in the Nationwide car and I was not doing so good in the Cup car so I was getting a little bit of self confidence out of the Nationwide car which was helping me there. I just kept pushing it and trying to learn these race cars as much as I can. By no means I'm not there yet, but I feel like we made big steps this year. I feel like we've got a few more big steps to go. These things drive so different than any other race car that I've ever driven. It's a matter of figuring out how to drive them -- that was a big part. And then the second part is figuring out how you want them to drive -- what part of the corner do you want to work on, what do you need to make these things go fast. There's a few big things I was learning throughout the season and hopefully throughout the off-season we can test a little bit and get some more seat time in these things and come back better next year."
Did you think five years ago that you would be sitting here as Rookie of the Year? "No, I don't look that far ahead. I think that's kind of the big deal -- I've always been a day-by-day person and always worry about the next thing as they come. I've never been the person to look two races ahead, it's always the next one. At the time I thought that was awesome. To be honest with you that's something that got me to this point if it weren't for him (Mark Martin) saying stuff like that to get me a ride like this. It was a real big deal in my career."
DAVID GILLILAND, No. 02 Farm Bureau Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 29th
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip
Finishing Position: 30th
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Little Debbie Toyota Camry, JTG -Daugherty
Finishing Position: 35th
ROBBY GORDON, No. 7 Jim Beam Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports
Finishing Position: 39th
TERRY LABONTE, No. 08 FanCar Toyota Camry, Carter-Simo Racing
Finishing Position: 42nd
MICHAEL McDOWELL, No. 36 WAVE Energy Drink Toyota Camry, Tommy Baldwin
Finishing Position: 43rd
-credit: toyota motorsports