Denny Hamlin earned his sixth win of the season in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Virginia's Richmond International Raceway. Hamlin started 14th in the race and led a race-high 251 (of 400) laps at the three-quarter...
Denny Hamlin earned his sixth win of the season in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Virginia's Richmond International Raceway.
Hamlin started 14th in the race and led a race-high 251 (of 400) laps at the three-quarter mile oval.
The win marked the fourth consecutive NSCS win at Richmond for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and Toyota - May 2009 (Kyle Busch), Sept. 2009 (Hamlin) and May 2010 (Busch).
With his victory tonight, Hamlin secured the number one seed in the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff, which starts next week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Fellow Camry driver and JGR teammate, Busch will start the Chase from the fourth position.
Hamlin's JGR teammates Busch (second) and Joey Logano (fourth) also earned top-five finishes along with Camry driver Marcos Ambrose (fifth).
Other Camry drivers in the field included David Reutimann (19th), Casey Mears (21st), Martin Truex Jr. (22nd), Scott Speed (24th), Mattias Ekstrom (31st), Terry Labonte (40th), Kevin Conway (41st), Joe Nemechek (42nd) and Jason Leffler (43rd).
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 1st
How were you able to hold off Kyle Busch in the closing laps? "It was just a game of patience. I just knew I had to keep the rear tires on the car. I knew how many laps we had to go to the finish and that the 18 (Kyle Busch) was going to get around us. I knew I was going to have something left for the end. I just drove patient and kept the rear tires on it as best I could. Just feels great to get this win. Our team has performed like this over the last month or so and just haven't had the finishes to go with it. I have to thank FedEx and all the employees. I will be first in points for the first time in my career and to make five straight Chases means a lot. Toyota, Wiley-X and Sprint - can't thank them enough. Just a great day."
How do you feel about being seeded number one in the Chase? "I've made a lot of these Chases and made a lot of mistakes through these Chases. Every year I feel like we learn something. I feel like this year I'm as clear as I've ever been and we're winning at race tracks we don't usually win at."
Was it difficult not to focus on Kyle Busch coming behind you? "It was just so tough to be patient and realize that you can't race anyone in the mirror, you have to just race your own race. Kyle (Busch) put the pressure on us and he made a heck of a charge. Luckily for me it was a teammate because if it had been anyone else, he probably would have moved us. Just can't say enough about this whole FedEx team. It's been an up and down year, but there's been a lot of ups and I'm just thankful we're going to enter this Chase number one."
How important is it to be number one going into the Chase? "It means a lot for this whole race team. A lot of people bash this race team about can't finish this or can't finish that, but we got the most wins and hopefully that's going to carry us through 10 weeks of the Chase."
What race tracks do you feel you will be strong at in the Chase? "At this point I say we can win at all of them."
What makes Joe Gibbs Racing so strong at Richmond? "Tell everyone too much information. I just think that we feed off of each other. When Kyle (Busch) came in 2008, I think I was definitely the guy that was better at the short tracks. He was better at the mile-and-a-halves. And we have just shared so much information and learned so much off of each other that it's made us better all around, and Kyle has won at short tracks, big tracks and everything now, and we are winning at short tracks and big tracks. So it's just -- you need a competitive spirit like what he's doing for us to step up our game. If we didn't have a teammate as competitive as him or as good as him, I doubt I would be in this position or won as many races this year. I think you need someone as competitive as what he is that will push your race team to be better."
MIKE FORD, crew chief, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How do you feel being the number one seed for the Chase? "We started a little early. We needed to get some momentum going into the Chase. We felt like we stumbled a little bit, wanted to get aggressive and make sure that we come out swinging after that off-weekend and we did that. We went to Atlanta and sat on the pole and had a racetrack and at that point, okay, we had some momentum and turnaround and had an engine failure in the race. We knew coming to Richmond, we could rebound here and kind of gain that back. So it's kind of been up and down, but I think tonight, we gained some momentum moving into the Chase and put some ground behind us. We have never been the points leader, so we are still going to race like we are 40th. So still going to stay aggressive."
J.D. GIBBS, president, Joe Gibbs Racing
How does it feel to have all three Joe Gibbs Racing cars finish tonight in the top-five? "Just a big deal for us. I think with Denny (Hamlin), and Kyle (Busch), as well, and to watch Joey (Logano), all three in one night hopefully get some momentum built up for the Chase was a big deal for Joe Gibbs Racing, and we love coming back to Richmond."
How do you feel about Denny Hamlin being a factor in the Chase? "Denny (Hamlin), what he brings, from day one, he is smooth and hits his marks. He doesn't show you what the car is going to be able to do at the end of the race -- he just stays there. At the end, the encouraging thing for us is having him there -- throughout this Chase, I love the fact the way he and Mike (Ford, crew chief) have worked together and they have built some momentum. He goes out and pushes as hard as he has to and doesn't go over his head. Really the past few years watching him do that, I think that will hopefully pay off a lot in this Chase."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
How difficult was the battle from 32nd to second in tonight's race? "It was a hard-fought battle for sure and we've had a few of those over the last few weeks. It gets tougher and tougher every week. This field of cars is just so strong. Denny (Hamlin) was a lot better than we were - he had a really good car all night. We caught up to him and I thought we had something for him. In traffic, I could have made a ballsy move and gotten through him, but it would have made contact. I would rather have seen the Joe Gibbs cars finish one-two and I'm glad Joey (Logano) had a good run too. Really proud of all the guys on this M&M's Camry team. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) did an awesome job in practice yesterday. The guys really thought about it and got us a good handling race car to come from that far back. I've done it before, I think I qualified 36th in the 5 car one time and finished second. I've done it before, but when you start that far back you just don't have a car that will go on the front side of the run. It's so hard to make up that time and to make it a winning car - you ultimately qualify with a qualifying setup or qualify with a race setup, however you want to look at it. Just real proud of all the guys and a hard-fought night for us."
How was your race tonight? "It was a good night for us all around. It started out a little rough yesterday qualifying 32nd, but we were able to rebound well and climbed up to the front steadily and methodically and not get into anything. Guys did great on pit road and Dave (Rogers, crew chief) worked a lot on the car last night and this morning getting it prepared and ready for today and making some changes. Real proud of his effort and the way that guys thought about things and really gave me a good piece tonight to come out and run so well. I felt like the 11 (Denny Hamlin)was just a step ahead of us tonight and they deserved to win. They gave us our air pressure that we started running about mid race, and we really started clicking off and going forward. It was good. We can't be disappointed in a second tonight. We wanted to win, and we fought hard with Denny, but racing teammates clean like that, and you know, not laying a bumper at all, just making sure that the Gibbs cars had a good, solid night, so that we have everything on our side heading into the Chase here next weekend."
What is it about the Joe Gibbs cars that seem to have this track figured out? "I think it's really, really cool the way we have been able to run well here and the way it is with Joe Gibbs Racing, but I give a little bit of credit -- I give a lot of credit to the team and to the guys. They build great stuff. But a little bit of the credit probably to Denny (Hamlin) and myself, as well. Denny has always run well here and has always been the car to beat, better than myself. My average finish here, it's really, really good. I've run well here in the five days -- I remember starting 36th and running all the way up to second and just not quite having enough to beat Jimmie Johnson one Sunday afternoon, we ran, actually, because of the rainout on Saturday night. It's a true testament to everybody. Denny and I know how to get around this place and know what to talk about with our crew chiefs and know what to explain to those guys and what to talk amongst ourselves to get our stuff better. Yesterday we sat and we were like, what we're doing, we're just missing something. We all just talked about it and thought about some things and looked at some areas we have not really looked at before and made some good changes and went in that direction, so it really helped tonight."
What do you think of Denny Hamlin's chances in the Chase? "You can't count him out. I mean, you can't count out anybody. We look at who wants to be the best person, we all want to identify somebody, but you can't. I mean, look at Jeff Burton, for instance. He was really fast at Dover, and gave me a run for my money at Dover along with Jimmie (Johnson) before Jimmie had his pit road issues. You know, Clint (Bowyer) runs fast at Martinsville. He runs fast at Kansas. I can pick about three race tracks every driver is really, really good at. Denny (Hamlin) has really picked up the mile-and-a-half program this year, a lot better than I have. I've picked up the short track program. Being able to utilize our information as much as we can has really helped us as a team."
What would happen if the championship comes down to yourself and Denny Hamlin at Homestead? "Hopefully it doesn't, the big if. But if it does, it's going to be no holds barred. It came down to us last year, and if it's the same, Denny (Hamlin) was leading the race, I was running second chasing him down and I moved around my line a little bit and he moved his and I couldn't catch him anymore. If it comes down to me having to win the race in order to win the championship or if he wins the race he wins the championship, it's going to be whatever happens. You know, if it comes down to where he wins the race and I finish second, it's going to be an awfully disappointing night for the 18 team, but yet a very exciting one for the 11 (Denny Hamlin).
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 4th
What adjustments did the team make to your car during the race? "It was interesting - in the first round I felt like I was pretty good and a little tight in the center. We freed it up a little bit and it took a turn for the worst in the second run and we went down a lap. Got the 'lucky dog' and tightened up the car and it really took off after that. The car was still tight, but I was able to turn the wheels in the turn so that was good and that was pretty cool for me and the Home Depot guys. This was good and we needed a good run. It's been a while since we had a solid run. We've had fast race cars, but its good to be able to bring home a good finish like everyone deserves here. Awesome day for Joe Gibbs Racing, that's for sure." How important was it for Joe Gibbs Racing to have all three cars finish in the top-three? "It's a big day for Joe Gibbs Racing for sure. I was nervous that we weren't going to be able to do that today. I was excited about how well the car came back today. The team tightened me up and the car came right back to life and I was able to drive right back to the front. I'm just excited about it and we needed a good, solid run and a top-five is definitely what that was."
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Kingsford/Kroger Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
Finishing Position: 5th
How was your race car tonight? "I'm just really proud of my guys. It was a lot of fun out there. I'm coming of age racing up there with those guys. The No. 47 Kroger Toyota got better and it was the best it had been there at the end of the race. When you do well at a place like this it makes you feel proud. We've had tough times, but just really excited after this race. We are now hitting our stride. A top-10 last week and a top-five tonight is pretty awesome -- looking forward to New Hampshire."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 19th
How do you feel about your race tonight? "That was a frustrating night. We had a good Aaron's Dream Machine, qualified well and I thought we were going to have a pretty good night. Unfortunately the No. 2 (Kurt Busch) car hit one of our tires with his splitter and it cause us to spin and lose a ton of track position. Then we got stuck on pit road when the caution came out. I really thought we had a top-10 car easy tonight, but we could never get back on the lead lap. I give my crew a ton of credit though. They worked hard and did everything they could to put us in position to get back on the lead lap. We just never caught that final break. We'll regroup and try to get better next week in New Hampshire."
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing
Finishing Position: 21st
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA Brakes Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 22nd
TERRY LABONTE, No. 55 Gander Mountain Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports
Finishing Position: 40th
KEVIN CONWAY, No. 7 Extenze Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports
Finishing Position: 41st
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 Washington Music Center Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports
Finishing Position: 42nd
JASON LEFFLER, No. 32 Toyota Camry, Braun Racing
Finishing Position: 43rd
-source: toyota motorsports