Denny Hamlin earned his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) victory Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, earning his first Cup victory at his home track. The Chesterfield, Va.-native led seven times for a race-high 298 (of 400)...
Denny Hamlin earned his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) victory Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, earning his first Cup victory at his home track.
The Chesterfield, Va.-native led seven times for a race-high 298 (of 400) laps to earn the 75th NSCS win for Joe Gibbs Racing.
Hamlin's win marks Toyota's ninth NSCS win in 2009 and 19th since joining the series in 2007.
Camry driver Kyle Busch finished fifth in the race, but missed making the top-12 positions for the 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' by only eight points.
Brian Vickers finished seventh in tonight's race and clinched his first career Chase spot and the first Chase appearance for Red Bull Racing Team.
Camry drivers Joey Logano (14th), David Reutimann (20th), Marcos Ambrose (22nd), David Gilliland (24th), Michael Waltrip (32nd), Joe Nemechek (35th), Scott Speed (36th), Max Papis (37th), Michael McDowell (41st) and Dave Blaney (43rd) were also in the field on the .75-mile oval.
In the NSCS 'Chase for the Sprint Cup,' two Camry drivers -- Hamlin and Vickers -- will battle for the championship. Hamlin will start the Chase in the fourth position and Vickers will be eighth entering the first of the final 10 races next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How did you finally get the win at Richmond tonight? "I've got to thank the fans -- everyone who's wearing that number 11 hat or shirt. These are the times that I get so excited. I made sure I did everything I did at Pocono. I've only worn this hat two times and the other one was at Pocono. I made sure I had my gold heat shields on. Everything from Pocono. I had my grandma's St. Jude key chain in there. I was just making sure that I covered all bases when we got here today. This is my house. It has been for the last two years, we just haven't got the win to show it. Finally today our FedEx Toyota showed that we're a championship contender. As I told these guys, they better watch out for us and now we're for real."
What did you think when the last caution flag came out? "I was trying not to choke. That's the only thing I can say. Our car was just so good. We kept adjusting on it all day and just got it the best right there at the end. That was a ball racing with Jeff (Gordon) there for a while upfront. I was just trying to measure them up and see what I had incase I had to race these guys at the end but for the most part we had the most dominant car all day."
What do you think about contending for a Championship this year? "It just shows how strong our race team is. Over the last 12 weeks we've just been extremely strong and excited about the Chase. We've got some great tracks for us coming up there. Hopefully that burnout didn't hurt this car because I need it."
How strong was this run for you tonight? "It's a good run for our team. Its how we have run the last few times here and just haven't got the win. You know, today everything just came together. We had good pit stops and didn't make any mistakes, so we just kind of paced ourselves at the beginning. The 24 (Jeff Gordon) was really good there at the beginning and had some good racing with him. Just kind of sizing him up, seeing what he had in case I had to race him towards the end."
How important were restarts to you tonight? "They are. Our car was really good. Seemed like the first two laps we could put a little bit of a gap on guys. Then we would kind of back off a little bit and save the rear tires for the end of a run. Some of those guys were really putting pressure on us early and it was tough to get away, especially there at the end. The way I run this racetrack, I need -- I'm really easy on corner entry and on the restarts, if you've got a guy right behind you, you cannot arc your way out and you can't be easy entry because a guy will stick it in there. Kurt (Busch) did a good job of actually slowing us up by being behind us. He did the right things there."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 5th
How do you feel about the outcome of the race tonight? "It's a conglomerate of points that we sacrificed all year. It's unfortunate for the whole M&M's organization -- Victoria Mars was here tonight hoping that we could make it into the Chase. Unfortunately, we weren't able to. We didn't have the best of years to be consistent and unfortunately that bit us. We can always look toward the rest of the year to try to win some races and go out with a bang and try to build on something for next year. I've been struggling a little bit this year with these cars for some reason. Last year I took to them real quick. Thank Interstate Batteries, Joe (Gibbs) and JD (Gibbs) and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. It wasn't tonight -- it was a good, strong top-five finish. That was a hard battle all night. My arms are sore, my back is sore, but it was fun to be able to race all these guys. (Brian) Vickers put up a whale of a fight there at the end you know."
How was your race car tonight? "We had a good car tonight. We kept making it better and better, kept making changes to it that kept waking it up. It was a great top- five and a good points night, but unfortunately the 83 (Brian Vickers), he ran really strong tonight too. It was a battle and I knew it was going to be down to the end. I saw him behind me all night, but never saw what the points were, but unfortunately they fell the way they are. All we could ask for was good pit stops and the guys did flawless on that all night long. Unfortunately we're out of the top-12 here for the Chase. But thanks to everybody that makes this possible and we'll just have to go out of this year with a bang and win a couple more races. Try to get in and get better for next year."
How emotional is this for you tonight? "It's very, very frustrating. I'm heartbroken, but the good Lord put me in this predicament for some reason and someday I'll find out what it is and be able to tell you guys. Right now, I'm not quite sure. We'll take this and go the rest of the year and try to win some more races. There were a lot of situations this year that I screwed up that we got put into bad spots, had a couple days that we were bad on pit road. It's just a conglomerate of things that put us in this predicament, it's not just one thing. It's not these last two weeks, it's the previous 26 all together. Unfortunately some of those weeks were worse than others."
What earned you a spot in the Chase tonight? "It was team determination. This was just one race of many. The guys did a good job and the last stop wasn't our best. We had a couple really good pit stops prior to that. Really proud of the effort by the guys. We really picked a good night to figure this place out. Ryan (Pemberton, crew chief) and the guys did a tremendous job and this was probably the best car I've ever had. I really wish that last caution hadn't have come out. We were starting to run down the two (Kurt Busch) and maybe had an opportunity at a top- three. Real proud of everybody at Red Bull and Toyota. This is not just one race -- this has been a culmination of 26 races, nobody giving up. Two-and-a-half years ago we started this program and we never would have believed that we would have been this far along -- six poles, a win and now we're in the Chase. I don't know what to say -- I'm so proud of everybody."
What was it like to race against Kyle Busch for the spot in the Chase? "Kyle (Busch) and I have had our differences. I have to give him credit. Kyle (Busch) raced me very hard and very clean tonight. We had a great battle a couple times racing each other. He raced me with the utmost respect and I appreciate that. Ever since our little bought at Michigan, we've had some great races together. Haven't had any problems since then. I have to be honest with you, at this race track that is probably not the person I would have picked to have to battle to get into the Chase. They're really good here as a team, he's really good here as a driver, but we're happy that we got it done."
How does it feel to be welcomed to the Chase? "Don't just welcome me, welcome this whole team. This was a group effort. It's been 26 races long, it's not just tonight. It's not just one race and nobody gave up. It's a two-and-a-half year old program, from scratch -- just so proud of everybody and all the support. Coming into this week it was really special and it meant a lot. It really helped this whole team through this pressure and this time period. The support from the media, the fans, the peers in the garage, friends have all said that they think we can do it, but they said we would. We're finally here. I'm just so proud of everybody. Last week, that effort to change that axle without losing a lap -- you could go back and look at a million events that took place that put us in position to stay in the Chase. Tonight was just one of them."
Where does this rank among your career accomplishments? "its right there -- I can't even think back, all I can think about is right here, right now. The program that's in place here -- Jay's (Frye, general manager) assembled a great group of people here. I think our products really good, great race cars and we have a great race car driver. We're really putting some nice things together here and it's fun to go to the race track week in and week out. This team is really coming into its own. You saw how good we could be at the road courses, Brian (Vickers) sat on the pole out there, that program is good. The short track thing is coming along and obviously the big tracks are there. I can't say enough about all the people, the quality people that have gathered here at Red Bull Racing to make this happen."
How much information was Brian Vickers requesting on the Chase competitors during the race? "Not a word. I bet I didn't tell him two things the whole day. I told him with about 70 (laps) to go that the 18 (Kyle Busch) was the one that we needed to keep our eye on and we didn't want to get him too far away. I think on that last restart with 20 (laps) to go, I said, 'You see the 18 (Busch), need to keep him within a few spots.' That was a total of about four seconds of conversation about it."
JAY FRYE, General Manager, Red Bull Racing Team
Can this Red Bull Racing Team win the championship? "Absolutely. If you look at the last 10 weeks, we have accumulated the most points for the past 10 weeks. All we have to do is that for the next 10 weeks and we win. The hardest part is getting in the Chase and now we've been able to do that and we're very fortunate that we have been able to do that. We just continue to do what we do and there's no reason that we can't compete for the championship and be going into Miami with the same type of situation that we had here."
What does it mean for a young organization to get into the Chase? "Out goals for the year were to win a race, win a pole and get into the Chase so we've got that. For a company that is only two-and-a- half years old, it's pretty phenomenal. Too, we're still a small team -- we're a two-car team so that's unusual if you look at everyone else. Part of it has been that when Red Bull came into this sport in 2007, they came in a big way. Their expectations were high, we're very fortunate that they give us the opportunity to do what we do. They give us a chance to compete at a high level and for us that is very exciting. We're paying them back a little bit."
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 14th
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 20th
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Kingsford/Clorox Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
Finishing Position: 22nd
DAVID GILLILAND, No. 7 Jim Beam Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports
Finishing Position: 24th
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 32nd
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports
Finishing Position: 35th
MAX PAPIS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing
Finishing Position: 37th
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 36 Wave Energy Drink Toyota Camry, Tommy Baldwin Racing
Finishing Position: 41st
DAVE BLANEY, No. 66 Prism Motorsports Toyota Camry, Prism Motorsports
Finishing Position: 43rd
-credit: toyota motorsports