Toyota Motorsports press release
Martin Truex Jr. (third) was the highest finishing Toyota driver in Sunday’s season-finale NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Camry drivers Kasey Kahne (seventh) and Denny Hamlin (ninth) also earned top-10 finishes at the mile-and-a-half oval.
Other Toyota drivers in the field included Brian Vickers (17th), David Reutimann (18th), Joey Logano (19th), Kyle Busch (23rd), Casey Mears (26th), Bobby Labonte (27th), Cole Whitt (37th), Joe Nemechek (40th) and Michael McDowell (43rd).
Four Camry drivers finished the 2011 season in the top-20 in the unofficial NSCS point standings -- Hamlin (ninth), Busch (12th), Kahne (14th) and Truex (18th).
Camry drivers earned six wins and seven pole positions during the 2011 season. Toyota has recorded 39 victories and 31 poles since joining the series in 2007.
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 3rd
How much fun did you have racing tonight? “It’s a lot of fun when you can run like that. Just got to thank NAPA, Toyota and everybody on this race car. Michael (Waltrip) and Rob (Kauffman, team owner), they put a lot of resources and a lot of efforts into getting our cars better the second half of the year. We’ve got a lot to build on this season. Scott Miller (director of competition) came over and did a nice job being my interim crew chief while Chad (Johnston) was emailing setups from the race shop. Just proud of everybody on the team for sticking together. We ended the season on a strong note and we know what we’ve got to work on this winter. We’ve had speed all year, we’ve just got to get more consistent. If we can do that next year we’ll do some great things."
How was your race? “It was a good run for our NAPA Toyota. We had a good car all weekend long. I love coming down here to Homestead. I don’t know what it is about this place but I really enjoy it. I felt like we probably had the car to beat here last year. Tonight we weren’t quite as good. The 14 (Tony Stewart) and 99 (Carl Edwards) were just so stout. Now you know why they battled for the championship this year. A big night for our team. This is a new car we built and took to Texas for the first time. It’s something that the guys have been working on for a big part of this year to get better. Just feels good to come out here and run well and finish the season off. My crew chief (Chad Johnston) is at home emailing setups and notes trying to help us as much as he can through email and text and all of that. I’ve just got to thank Scott Miller for coming on board and helping us. Looking forward to next year. We’ve had speed like this all year, we just have to get more consistency and next year we’ll do great things if we can do that."
How much were you watching the battle between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards? “It was exciting to be up front with those two guys all night. We had a really good NAPA Toyota all weekend. It’s just a credit to all of these guys on this team for working hard throughout the season. The 99 (Carl Edwards) and the 14 (Tony Stewart) were really stout. We weren’t going to touch those guys, but we were pretty decent. We’ve got some things to work on this winter and if we can get a little bit more consistency we’ll have a good season next year. We’ve had the speed, we just have to do all of the little things right."
Are you excited about Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin joining Michael Waltrip Racing next year? “I’m looking forward to it. They’re both obviously good guys and good drivers with good records. Certainly, Mark (Martin) has done a lot. Clint (Bowyer) has had a few good years. It’s going to be fun to work with both of those guys. I’ve worked with Mark before so I kind of know what to expect with him. I’m not real sure about (Clint) Bowyer. He’s a little bit off the wall, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun. Michael (Waltrip) and Rob (Kauffman, owner) and everybody here has just put so much effort into making our cars better and using all of the resources that we have from Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and all of those guys. We really had a pretty good season. I know the points don’t show it -- all of our finishes don’t show it but we’ve had fast race cars. If we can take care of a lot of little things this winter hopefully we’ll have three cars next year that are capable of winning races week in and week out."
How was your race? “We had to battle pretty hard during the race. I think we had the best car there those couple runs before the final run. We were flying. It felt really good and then we just got tight in that final run. I was kind of surprised we got tight, but the two runs before that our Red Bull Toyota was I think the fastest car on the track after about 10 laps and we were coming. It was good and it was fun passing cars and having a great car again. The guys did a ton of work today. We started off way too loose and we were loose every run and could go at the end. And then that final one we got a little too tight so we finally went too far. It was still a good day, a good finish for us. The team guys were awesome. They brought a lot of great race cars to the track and nobody gave up and we were right there throughout the whole final three months."
How much did the track change with the rain delays? “The first one didn’t seem to do a lot. We made a big adjustment so I wouldn’t know. The new setup was completely different. The second one my car wouldn’t turn afterwards. I was a lot tighter than what I was before the rain. I don’t know if other people were that way or not, but I know our car -- I had already driven by (Martin) Truex (Jr.) and (Matt) Kenseth and those guys and they just drove right back by me and had nothing for them. It was much tighter after the final run."
What did you think of the championship battle? “It was crazy. To do that, you can’t ask for anything more. That’s as close as a championship can be, will ever be. Those two guys both deserve to be champions if you ask me. Tony (Stewart) wins it because of wins, but Carl (Edwards) was awesome all season long. One of the best, probably the best car through the whole year. And Tony was, I guess, the best car in the Chase."
Were you keeping track of where Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards were on the track? “I was at times, but then at the end I had my hands full trying to race with Clint (Bowyer). I tried a big slide-job on Clint in (turns) three and four on the final lap and luckily he saw me coming and avoided it or else we both would’ve wrecked. I misjudged it pretty good. Clint saved two cars."
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 9th
Did you pay any attention to the championship battle during tonight’s race? “Yeah, you could see Tony (Stewart) was really aggressive on restarts trying to make up some ground. If you can win that many races in the Chase you deserve to win the championship, so it’s a heck of a run by them."
How much did the rain impact the race track? “A little bit. It helped us. It seemed like when the track would get cleaned off our car would be a little bit better once the rubber got laid down. We just are a little off in a lot of areas and just have to get a little bit better. It’s a step in the right direction on our mile-and-a-half program though."
What have the last five years meant to you with Red Bull? “It’s been a good five years. Can’t thank everyone enough. We had some ups and downs. Unfortunately, this year wasn’t one of our better ones. We won a race, made the Chase and sat on poles. The only goal we didn’t accomplish was the championship. Considering we only had four years to do it – I was out of the car for one (with a medical condition) – I don’t think that’s too bad. I just want to thank everyone at Red Bull, Toyota and all the guys for their hard work through the years. This is it."
What are your plans for next year? “I’m working on several options right now in the Cup Series that I’m very excited about, but until they’re done they’re not done. So, I’m looking forward to hopefully continuing a strong career here in the Cup Series. I love this racing and I love what I do especially with everything I went through last year. It taught me just how much I really do love it."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 18th
What are your emotions after the final race of the season? “It’s disappointing. I love my guys. A lot of these guys have been with me since the Truck Series and have come up with me. I’m going to miss them. I’m going to miss my guys most of all. It’s certainly a lot more bitter than it is sweet this week for sure, but we’ll see what happens."
What tribute did your team do before today’s race? “All of the guys that have been with me for a long time, they autographed the hood. I knew I was going to have a hard enough time keeping it together because it’s kind of an emotional weekend and that made it really tough. I’ve got a great group of guys. A lot of guys have been with me for a lot of years, even from the Truck Series. So, it’s pretty special."
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 19th
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 23rd
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 Hard Rock Vodka Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 26th
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Reese Towpower Project Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 27th
What happened to take you out of the race? “It stinks that we’re out. We worked hard to get back on the lead lap and got the ‘Lucky Dog’ back. We were racing pretty decent there -- kind of coming back passing some guys back up on the lead lap and doing pretty good. I feel like we were just getting a little bit better. We were fighting a really loose race car all night and finally got it decent. It looked like Jamie (McMurray) just spun the 51 (Landon Cassill) and the 51 overcorrected where I thought he was just going to spin to the inside. He obviously overcorrected and went the other way and the hole closed up so we got into it with him and just ended our night. It just stinks that we got caught up in someone else’s mess."
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 40th
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 66 HP Racing, LLC Toyota Camry, HP Racing Finishing Position: 43rd