Camry drivers Tony Stewart (second) and Denny Hamlin (third) had top-five finishes in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Richmond International Raceway. David Reutimann matched his career-best NSCS finish of ninth-place in today's...
Camry drivers Tony Stewart (second) and Denny Hamlin (third) had top-five finishes in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Richmond International Raceway.
David Reutimann matched his career-best NSCS finish of ninth-place in today's race at Richmond. Reutimann also led the most laps (104) in today's 400-lap race.
Other Camry drivers in the field included Kyle Busch (15th), Michael McDowell (20th), Dave Blaney (22nd), Ken Schrader (27th), Michael Waltrip (28th), Brian Vickers (36th) and AJ Allmendinger (43rd).
In the NSCS 'Chase for the Sprint Cup,' three Camry drivers -- Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart -- will battle for the championship. Busch tops the standings and has a 30-point advantage over second-place Carl Edwards. Hamlin is in the sixth position and Stewart is eighth. This marks the first time Toyota has been represented in the 'Chase for the Sprint Cup.'
TONY STEWART, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
How was your car at the end of the race? "We just couldn't get by him (Jimmie Johnson). We did everything we could -- we raced him clean, we raced him the way he would have raced us. I wanted to race him with respect -- the way he would me -- and we just came up short."
How much fun did you have racing for the win today? "I'm excited about the race today. Obviously, we had a great car and it's something that we haven't had enough of this year, but (I'm) proud of our guys. You know, obviously it was a little bit of a guessing game, going between running a night race and a day race. But, we actually made our car better all day long and last week, we got to the l ast two runs of the night and just totally lost the handle on it. So, I was real impressed with our guys and how they were able to rebound from last week."
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 3rd
How much momentum do you have following your recent finishes? "Three thirds in a row after that problem in Michigan -- you can't ask for much more for a 'Chase' run. We have momentum I feel like and it's a way to hopefully start off the 'Chase' on a good foot by having these strong finishes. That's what this FedEx team needed."
How strong is this team heading to New Hampshire? "I couldn't think of a much better race track to go to. We're excited and everyone at FedEx is excited to make our third 'Chase' in a row. For Toyota, to have three strong Toyotas in the 'Chase,' -- it's the first time for them so congratulations to them."
Is the advantage in the 'Chase' all about how your car is balanced? "I don't know, I think it is a balance. I mean, guys, I think are ultimately looking for the softest springs that they can get in front without being too harsh on the bump stops and the guy that figures that out has it pretty good. We've been back and forth to big springs and having soft springs in front and really haven't made that big of advances to make our cars much better than what they were at the beginning of the year. But, we have a good variety of the race tracks at the end to where we don't have too many intermediates where someone gets that all figured out, they are just going to go out there and dominate the 'Chase.' I think we've got Talladega where it looks like it's a good mix. You will still have the same guys running for the championship anyway, the 18 (Kyle Busch), the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the 99 (Carl Edwards), but there's plenty of opportunity for the rest of us guys to make up ground."
How focused were you on the 'Chase' today? "Our first goal, of course, was to get in the 'Chase' and we stayed up front all day. We really were not paying attention where the 6 (David Ragan) was, only if we had to get in the back of the pack and he (Ragan) was in front of us, but the only time we were in the back, he (Ragan) had already had trouble, so it was pretty much an uneventful day for us and we had a good car at the end. I felt like we were -- could have raced those guys and we just got too far behind in the middle stage of the race and just got too loose and couldn't make up."
How did you balance wanting to be in the 'Chase' with wanting to win the race today? "With the troubles that the 6 (David Ragan) had, it really didn't matter. I could go out there and race as hard as I wanted to and at times we pitted and a lot of times we got to the back of the pack a little bit. I was a little more cautious, I knew the chances of the 6 (David Ragan) getting in the top-10 before the end of the race were relatively slim, so if I did fall out of the race, I still was going to be okay. Yeah, I raced just as hard and we didn't have the car there at the end."
Did your comments at Michigan affect your team's success over the past three races? "Definitely, it was bad for two days and then it was good from there on out. I think we all knew that we needed to be smarter with our decisions on making sure we don't go with any experimental parts from there on out and we might try it later on in the 'Chase' because ultimately we want to -- those are the things that are going to make a championship team. We need to get better, and so we need to find some things that will make our car faster. I like going into the 'Chase' with the finishes that we have because I feel like it's good momentum and we obviously have a good short-track package and going into Loudon, (there's) no reason why we can't move up in points right from the get-go."
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M's Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 15th
Can you talk about how the race played out for you today? "We got tore up a little bit there, but nothing we could help with that. We had to continue on and soldier on. The M&M's guys dug in deep there and got this thing repaired to where we could somewhat drive it. It was hard to drive there those last 200 laps or so, but we were able to prevail there with a top-15 and we'll take that and go on. It was just unfortunate."
What happened with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. early in the race? "I'm not sure -- I haven't seen it. It was tough racing. We had a good car overall. We were leading there -- leading some laps, led some laps. Fell back a little bit there on a pit mistake on my part -- got too far in the box. Fortunately, we had a fast race car still even after we wrecked. Come back to 15th -- it was a pretty hard fought race there."
Do you see the championship within your reach? "Well, I mean, you can't envision anything, you can only hope for the best and do what you can and keep yourselves in the right positions at the right times. So, the only thing we can do is try to do what we've done all year long. And that's to race hard and still mind what we're doing and trying to keep up front and keep up those consistent finishes. If we can go for a win -- great. If not, it's going to be top-fives and tops to get this deal done. You know, to come back to a 15th with a tore up race car like that -- that's championship-caliber right there -- that would be pretty good there in the 'Chase' too."
Do you see the race for the 'Chase' to be a two or three car battle? "You never know. The 24 (Jeff Gordon) could come on. The 20 (Tony Stewart) has obviously been strong all year long -- he's had some spurts, and stuff. So, he can go on a winning tangent. We know the 11 (Denny Hamlin) is going to be good, too. It's anybody's race with the way the points are closed up now -- it's all about whoever is the most consistent over the next 10 weeks."
What is it like to be in the lead starting the 'Chase'? "It's a lot better to be at the top than it is down at the bottom. That makes it look a lot prettier from our seat. Just to go out there and run consistently in the final 10 races and race these other 42 guys that are in the race track with us and yet still keep track or try to out-race the other 11 that we are trying to beat out for the championship here. We know it's going to be a tough race and it's not going to be easy, and we have the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and 99 (Carl Edwards) most to worry about and anybody that could hit on stride. The 88 (Dale Earnhardt, Jr.) was really good at the beginning and you never know what (Jeff) Gordon will do and (Matt) Kenseth -- all of these guys are capable of something."
Do you believe that Jimmie Johnson is the favorite starting the 'Chase?' "They have been strong. If I was in Jimmie's (Johnson) spot, I'd say, 'heck, yeah.' We feel like the 99 (Carl Edwards), with the races that are coming up, you know, I believe there's like five mile-and-a-half tracks in the finals, and you know, we know that the Hendrick guys are always tough at the Martinsville track and Phoenix, and the Toyotas seem to run well at the restrictor plate tracks. But, anything can happen with five mile -and-a-halves with the way the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and 99 (Carl Edwards) have run this year, it's going to be hard to beat those guys there."
Did you try to recover quickly from the contact with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.? "All I know is I wasn't able to spin off the wall as best I could and wasn't able to achieve that. Hard racing and leading the race and unfortunately things happened that way. We had a great M&M's Toyota today so the most disappointing part is that we were not able to show what we had there at the end of the race and race for a win with Tony (Stewart) and Jimmie (Johnson) up there towards the front and being able to try to get in another ten bonus points."
Did you know that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was at your rear quarter panel? "Yeah, I knew he was back there. I knew he was on my quarter panel, but you know, I tried to make sure that I was leaving enough room down there. So, if there was a chance for a mistake, that he had enough room to ga ther it back up, but unfortunately there wasn't enough room there and we got together, and, no, there was no discussion of that before the race."
How large is the advantage of starting first in the 'Chase?' "I'm on the same page as Jimmie (Johnson). He's been there before and knows about being up front in these past championships and being able to capitalize on it and win it. For me, I've been in the 'Chase' these past two seasons and had to come-from-behind a little bit. Fortunately, this year we star t in a better position and hopefully come out of the box strong on the first few tracks and after that regroup and we look and see what we have to improve on in the final seven or eight races and see what we have to work on in order to get a little bit better. But, overall I think it's going to come down to the wins if you can get some and the top-fives, of course and on the bad days, everybody says you have one or two 'mulligans,' which it's hard to say, but would you rather not have to use those up, but whatever comes back the best with some of those is going to be the key, too."
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 9th
Are you disappointed that you weren't up front at the end of the race? "It definitely bums me out a little that we didn't do a little better there at the end. We just ended up being too tight there towards the end. Anytime you can come out of here with a top-10 and be upset about it I guess it's not a bad day. It was awesome to lead -- I need to do that more often."
How was your car toward the end of the race? "I wish we could have held them off there at the end. Ryan Pemberton (crew chief) and the guys did a really good job and we had really good pit stops all day. That was one of our new generation cars, which is the same thing we had last week. That's all due to the guys at the fab (fabrication) shop, and Toyota did a great job with great horsepower all day. We just came up a little short and got too tight to move forward like we needed to. All in all it was a pretty good day for the UPS Toyota. I'm sure a lot of people were thinking that once some of the heroes get up there, --'then they will drive right by him' -- and that wasn't the case because I was able to hold them off for a while. I think we led the most laps, but I would have taken just leading one lap and that would be the last one. I'm proud of my guys and it was a blessing to have a good run today."
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 00 Champion Mortgage Toyota Camry, Michael Wal trip Racing
Finishing Position: 20th
DAVE BLANEY, No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing
Finishing Position: 22nd
KEN SCHRADER, No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry, Hall of Fame Racing
Finishing Position: 27th
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 28th
-credit: toyota motorsports