Richmond: Toyota teams race notes, quotes

Richmond: Toyota teams race notes, quotes
May 5, 2008, 11:25 PM

Two Toyota Camry drivers earned top-five finishes tonight at Richmond International Raceway -- Kyle Busch (second) and Tony Stewart (fourth). Chesterfield, Va.-native, Denny Hamlin earned the pole for tonight's race and led 381 laps of the 410-lap ...

Two Toyota Camry drivers earned top-five finishes tonight at Richmond International Raceway -- Kyle Busch (second) and Tony Stewart (fourth).

Chesterfield, Va.-native, Denny Hamlin earned the pole for tonight's race and led 381 laps of the 410-lap race, but a cut in the right-front tire ended chances for a Toyota race weekend sweep. Hamlin finished 24th.

Other Toyota drivers in the field included Dave Blaney (18th), David Reutimann (22nd), Brian Vickers (28th), J.J. Yeley (34th), Michael Waltrip (37th), AJ Allmendinger (39th) and Michael McDowell (40th).

Camry drivers have earned 15 top-five finishes and 21 top-10 finishes in 2008.

Busch regained the unofficial NSCS point lead with his second place finish tonight at Richmond. Busch is 18 points ahead of second place, Jeff Burton.

Other Camry drivers in the top-20 in the unofficial NSCS point standings include Hamlin (sixth), Stewart (eighth) and Vickers (17th).


KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Pedigree Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd

What happened between you and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final laps? "It was just a bummer deal -- we were both just racing there. Denny (Hamlin), first off, had the class of the field today -- his car was awesome -- that FedEx Joe Gibbs Toyota was great. (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. and I were just racing hard there and getting into turn three, from the front end replay, it looked like he came down a little bit. It's just a part of racing. I probably could have moved down a little lower getting into the corner and he probably could have moved up higher -- it's just a product of good, hard racing. I apologize to those guys -- they had a great race car tonight and they probably could have finished, if not winning the race, probably second. For us to go on the way that we have since all of this has gone on has nothing to do with any of that stuff. To me, Rick Pigeon (88 crew member) coming on down here, was a friend of mine and has always been a great friend to Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., that was a little uncalled for and it's not all about him all the time and he'll know what I mean by that."

What will the perception of 'Junior Nation' be about the incident tomorrow? "'Junior' nation assumption is probably going to always be right. It's just a product of hard racing with both of us going into the corner and running out of room together and we got together."

How tough was the battle between you and Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the position? "It was a tough battle there, we were really racing each other pretty hard there. His car took up off the race track on the start of those first couple laps and he started running the top side. I got my car pinned down on the bottom and just started getting loose down there. It's just a product of good, hard racing getting into turn three. I apologize to those guys that the whole incident happened, I didn't mean to do it on purpose. It was just something where two cars got together and unfortunately it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. and I was able to go on and continue and salvage a good day for us. Our Pedigree Camry was good all day, but I believe Denny Hamlin was the class of the field and obviously had everybody covered. He deserved to win tonight, but if it wasn't for myself, (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. probably could have won or finished second."

How disappointed do you think Denny Hamlin is after dominating at his home track for much of the race? "I can't imagine what exactly it feels like because I would hate to ever have to go through that, but to dominate a race so well here in your home town and do what all he did tonight -- they were flawless all day on pit road, no mistakes anywhere and Denny (Hamlin) drove a superb race. They just had bad luck and had a tire going down -- I don't know if he ran over something or punctured it somehow, but just an unfortunate circumstance for him and also now for me."

Was the incident a product of the way these cars handle? "(Dale Earnhardt) Jr. and I both know how these things race and they're so touchy and so unforgiving. We're both going after it trying to drive as hard as we possibly can there at the end of the race. We didn't give each other enough room and enough space going into turn three and we made contact and he got the worst end of the deal and got turned around there. Fortunately for us we were able to continue with our Pedigree Camry and come home second and get a good points day."

What did you see in the grandstands after the incident? "They were going crazy and you see it, but you don't pay attention to it. I don't know why they were telling me I was number one, I was in second place. Clint Bowyer got the lead from me -- they were all confused I guess, too many old (Dale Earnhardt) Jr. Budweisers."

How do you feel about Denny Hamlin bringing out the last caution intentionally? "I mean, I don't know what his situation was. I believe it was a flat right front tire. You know, if he could not have made the pits, you know it's awfully hard to turn these things when the right front is going down, because the splitter that scrapes the race track; then you basically go straight in the wall. I don't know if he tried in the last corner and missed and it didn't stop, because it wasn't going to make the next corner -- if he made the turn in turn one, he would probably have crashed. I would rather give him the benefit of doubt than say he did it deliberately. It's just a bummer deal for him. He had the field covered. He drove a flawless race, and he had spectacular pit stops all day. No mistakes on his part and no mistakes in the pits. It's just such bummer to see that happen to him. Those guys deserved it."

What goes through your mind when the car that dominated the race suddenly falls out? "You pretty much see the guy that everybody's got to beat, I don't know. So then it's a race between everybody else because everybody else seemed to be pretty equal. He got up on top of the wheel and was trying to dig harder and get a little extra something out of the car. Today, on those restarts, it took my car a couple of laps to come in. It wasn't ready to go right off the get-go. Took it took a couple laps, probably about five to ten laps were my best laps, and then other guys will start beating me about ten after -- so I only had about five good laps where I could get going there."

Do you feel like this is a 'no-win' situation with the Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, no matter how many times you apologize? "Oh, yeah. I feel it's like that. I mean, everybody probably is racing around the race track scared to death of wrecking Dale Earnhardt, Junior, so why wouldn't I be any different? You know that was just a product of good, hard racing. I apologize that's that happened, and I hated that it did. Fortunately he didn't get hurt and nothing like that happened, so he was able to continue. He'll see another day of racing. You know, to say that I took away a win away from him, you know, it's hard to say. And if I wanted to do it deliberately, I would have waited for the last lap where I probably could have still won the race. You know, there's a way that it happened and I hated that it did. We just didn't give each other enough room getting into turn three and, you know, I didn't -- I didn't feel like I slipped, but I mean, we just kind of banged simultaneously, and then that's when I got loose and got corrected and he was gone."

What were you thinking on the final restart behind Clint Bowyer? "Well, I was trying to think, 'don't spin your tires, don't spin your tires,' because the previous couple starts I had spun my tires. And again, that time, I had spun just a little bit, but I got a good enough restart, I thought where I was going to get back to him but I just couldn't do it. He slowed his car down enough in the corners where he held his line and got up in the turn; whereas the previous restart, Junior was up there and dove off into the corners, and his car slipped up the track and that's what brought me to him. Clint (Bowyer) drove a great last three laps and pulled off the win."

Do you change your driving style depending on who you are racing so you are not vilified? "It would not make me a race car driver, that's for sure. I mean, if I went out there on that final restart and just gave way to the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) car, then that would not be a true race car driver. So, you know, I had to do what I had to do to win for my team, to win for Pedigree and to win for M&M's and Toyota; and so that's what I was out there and set forth to do was to try to get a win. You know, unfortunately circumstances happened."

Was it disappointing that one of your former team members was upset with you after the race? "It is, but if you know Rick Pigeon, you know Rick Pigeon. He was the one that went over to Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. to ask him to get in the car at Texas Motor Speedway. And, you know, I've been since dismissed from Hendrick Motorsports and racing at Job Gibbs. You know, last year we got wrecked twice by the 8 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) car in the 'Chase', and I feel like those were the situations that took us out of the running for the championship, and that had nothing to do with tonight. It was just a circumstance where I got into the corner, Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) got into the corner; we didn't give each other enough room and we wrecked. The fact that he came down and confronted me saying, 'why did I do that', thinking I did it deliberately, was beyond insane. So for me, I just went out there and I drive a race car and, you know, when I make mistakes, certain people have to pay for them, and unfortunately today, the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), they have to pay for it."


TONY STEWART, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 4th

Can you talk about what happened in the race tonight? "I'm really proud of Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and all these guys on The Home Depot team. We were absolutely terrible for about 300 laps, and then the last two stops we made a change that really brought this car to life. It was a little too late, but with a little help, it got us a top-five. Pretty proud of these guys. That's the whole moral of the story to this team -- we never give up. Even at the end there we may not have been the best car, but we were a fourth-place car at the end. We weren't good the majority of the night, but the last two stops Greg Zipadelli made big changes and we finally found something that the car liked. Most of the day we kept concentrating on an area that normally we have to focus on to be decent at the end of a race, but we went a totally different direction the last quarter of the race and actually got it halfway decent. Little too late, but at least we got ourselves in the top-five."

After dealing with a balky alternator, did you ever think you'd come home fourth? "I don't what happened, whether we lost an alternator belt or just broke an alternator or what, but I had to run the whole last half of the race with almost no fans, just front and rear brake blowers. So no bead blowers, no air conditioning -- none of the driver comforts we're used to. But even the last 50-plus laps we ran with no fans at all -- not even brake fans. Actually, the last 100 laps we ran without anything on. To be able to run the last 100 laps like that and not have brake fans -- which is a huge deal here at Richmond -- I think we did pretty well."

Are you looking forward to going to Rockingham tomorrow for the ARCA race? "Yeah, I feel like crap now so I'm hoping I feel a little better in the morning and get some of these fumes out of my system. It's pretty cool. Greg Zipadelli and I get to go to Rockingham. Zippy's driving the honorary pace car tomorrow and I get to drop the green flag for the ARCA race. Two of my favorite guys -- Joey Logano is starting on the pole and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., is starting on the outside front row. Two young guys that are going to have a pretty good race tomorrow."

Can you talk about how bad you feel for Denny Hamlin tonight? "Yeah, absolutely. (Richmond) is Denny's Daytona 500 or my Brickyard 400. I mean, this is it for him. To have won the Nationwide Series race last night and to be able to win the Cup race after leading as many laps as he did tonight, it would've been an awesome weekend for him. And it still was an awesome weekend because everyone knew he had the fastest car here tonight. Anybody who doesn't know that wasn't paying attention to the race. Your heart hurts for him because you know how badly you want to run well at home, and this is home for him. These are two of the biggest weekends of his year."


DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 24th

How disappointing is tonight's result? "It's tough to say. I mean, you can't whine about it. It wasn't meant to be. God didn't want me to win today, and there's a better time for us to win, evidently. Today is just not our day."

What were you thinking waiting to get out of your car after the race? "I just take time to get out of the car -- it's hot and (I) just gather your thoughts. Think about what you can say to justify a day like this. There's just nothing you can say other than it just wasn't meant to be."

Is it heartbreaking not winning after dominating the race? "You don't have days like this. Dominating days like this just don't happen. Usually, when it does you have an issue at the end. To me, it almost wasn't that surprising. I've had these issues before at Bristol and some other race tracks. Figure out what's going on."

Did you know if you ran over something when your tire was cut? "I definitely felt it. I was in complete ride mode all race long. Letting guys get close to me and then just pulling back away from them at leisure. You know, we had the car to beat still after that last pit stop. It was everything we needed. I was just out there riding and I knew right away I went in one corner and it fell down in the right front, and I knew we had a tire going down. They said the tires looked good, but I knew that we had an issue and it just kept getting worse and worse. There's nothing we could do there. Hopefully, it was going to last to the end and it didn't."

What do you think about the NASCAR penalty at the end of the race? "It was just a kick in the face after a bad deal anyway. It is what it is. What's the difference? We didn't win. It's 25th or 10th -- where ever we would have been -- or 15th one lap down, it doesn't matter at this point."

How hard it is to be so close to winning at Richmond? "We know we're capable of winning. We've been capable of winning the last six races we've been in. It's just you have to have things go your way. We had things go our way last night -- maybe we shouldn't have won. And this one we should have won and didn't. So, it balances itself in the end. Of course, I would have loved to win this one instead of last night. You figure your luck comes in swings at times. I felt like I had some good fortune at Martinsville, good fortune here last night, but I'm trying to justify why we had ten races we've had bad luck. Eventually, hopefully it's going to turn around one day. Once it does we're going to start ringing off a bunch of wins."

Would a win at Richmond mean more? "It means more here, for sure. I would have the same reaction at another race track, maybe not as much as what I feel right now. It's still just another win that slipped away from us."

How good was your race car? "I've never led that many laps in one race before. Mike (Ford, crew chief) gave me an excellent car. We should have won it. He deserves it. The team deserves it. We just came up short."


DAVE BLANEY, No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing
Finishing Position: 18th

DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 44 UPS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 22nd

BRIAN VICKERS, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team
Finishing Position: 28th

J.J. YELEY, No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry, Hall of Fame Racing
Finishing Position: 34th

MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 37th

AJ ALLMENDINGER, No. 84 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team
Finishing Position: 39th

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 40th

-credit: toyota motorsports

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