HISTORY AT MIS: This weekend, the Toyota Camry will make its fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) visit to Michigan International Speedway (MIS), and second of the 2008 season. In June, Camry driver Brian Vickers was the top Toyota-finisher in...
HISTORY AT MIS: This weekend, the Toyota Camry will make its fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) visit to Michigan International Speedway (MIS), and second of the 2008 season. In June, Camry driver Brian Vickers was the top Toyota-finisher in the NSCS race at Michigan with a fourth-place result. Tony Stewart (fifth) followed Vickers to the finish line, while Toyota drivers Kyle Busch (13th), Denny Hamlin (14th), AJ Allmendinger (19th), Michael Waltrip (23rd), David Reutimann (35th), Michael McDowell (37th), Dave Blaney (39th) and J.J. Yeley (41st) were also in the field.
ROAD COURSE RECORD: Camry driver Busch earned his eighth NSCS win of the season in Sunday's race at Watkins Glen International. His win at 'The Glen' in the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 18 Camry enabled Busch to become the first driver to win three road course races in a single season across the three major NASCAR series. Along with his Watkins Glen win, Busch finished first in the NSCS road course race at Infineon in June and the Nationwide Series race in Mexico City in April. Busch has now won 16 races across all three of NASCAR's national series in 2008. The Las Vegas-native has eight victories in NSCS competition, six in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) and two in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS).
DREAM SEASON: "This year has been phenomenal," said Busch, following the Watkins Glen race. "I just can't thank Toyota and the guys at JGR enough. It was fun to be able to race out there and I had a great time racing with my friend and my teammate Tony Stewart. The guys were phenomenal on pit road -- they really made it happen."
CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE CLINCHER: With his eighth NSCS win of the season Sunday, Busch clinched the top spot going into the 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' with four races still remaining before the championship battle begins. The 23 -year- old Las Vegas-native extended his lead in the unofficial NSCS point standings and holds a 242-point advantage over second- place Carl Edwards. "It's great to be able to have the top spot in the 'Chase', but there's still four more races to go, there's still more opportunities for us to be able to win another one just to increase our point total for the start of the 'Chase,'" added Busch.
TWO FOR TONY: For the second consecutive weekend, Stewart equaled his best finish of the season with a runner-up result at Watkins Glen. A four-time winner at the 2.45-mile road course, Stewart also finished second one week earlier at Pocono Raceway. "I think the last two weeks have shown how focused our team is at the job at hand," said Stewart, following the race. "It makes me proud of our guys and proud of our whole organization, and to know that we have a shot if we can stay in the top-12."
RACE RECAP: Busch's victory at The Glen was the ninth NSCS win for Toyota in 2008. Along with Stewart's second- place finish, JGR teammate Hamlin also finished in the top-10 with an eighth-place result. Other Toyota drivers in the field included Allmendinger (11th), Vickers (18th), McDowell (25th), Reutimann (33rd), P.J. Jones (37th), Waltrip (39th) and Blaney (41st).
POINTS PACE: NSCS points-leader Busch is not the only Camry driver currently in the top-20 in points after 22 of 36 NSCS races. Stewart (seventh), Hamlin (ninth) and Vickers (17th) are also in the top-20 and all are still mathematically within reach of making the 'Chase.'
AJ ACCOMPLISHMENT: Red Bull Racing Team driver Allmendinger earned his fourth-consecutive top-20 finish with an 11th-place result in Sunday's race at The Glen. The No. 84 Red Bull Racing Team entry now sits 35th in the NSCS owner standings, guaranteeing the car a starting spot in the field at Michigan for the first time in team history. "Jimmy (Elledge, crew chief) has done a great job coming over here and all the additions that Jay (Frye, general manager) has added to the team," says Allmendinger. "We have been running well and we just needed some luck on our side and some good strategy. We're in the top-35 and that's been our big deal -- I know once we get in we're not going to fall back out."
COLEMAN'S FIRST CUP: NNS driver Brad Coleman, who has been under contract as a test driver for Hall of Fame Racing since last November, will make his NSCS debut Sunday at Michigan in the No. 96 DLP HDTV Camry. "I'm real excited to go back to Michigan,' says 20-year-old Coleman. "It's a really big wide open track. It's a great opportunity to represent DLP and Toyota. I've tested the car four times this year and every time I feel more and more comfortable with it. Right now I'm not doing too bad, but I'm sure once I get to Michigan and I walk into the Cup garage for my first practice then I'm sure I'll show some nerves there."
CAMRY CHASE TALK: Hamlin currently sits ninth in the NSCS points race and is one of three Camry drivers currently in the top-12 with four races remaining before the 'Chase.' "Everyone on the whole FedEx team is working hard," says Hamlin. "Each and every week we are just thinking we're going to take the conservative approach and go out there and get a top-10 because that's what we need to do to make the 'Chase.' It's not like we're getting caught up in wrecks, we're just getting caught up in dumb stuff -- it's very frustrating because I know performance-wise we deserve to be in the 'Chase.' We're inconsistent right now -- if we get back into it then I'm confident that once the 'Chase' starts we'll be fine. Once we get reset -- we're fine. But, we just have to get there first."
MIKE IN FOR MCDOWELL: Veteran driver and current Tundra racer Mike Skinner will substitute for Michael McDowell in the Sprint Cup race at MIS in the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 00 Camry. Skinner is also scheduled to fill in for McDowell at the NSCS races at Bristol, Tenn. and Fontana, Calif. "Michael (Waltrip) asked me to come and run three races to evaluate the team, and give them some input. Earlier in the year, we were fortunate enough to help AJ get his season turned around and build his credibility back up to be the driver we all knew he was to begin with. Hopefully the same results happen. The cool thing about having me run these cars is I'm not trying to steal anybody's job. I'm just going in there and trying to help the team. Michael (Waltrip) and I have been friends for a long time."
20 HAS FIVE FROM MIS-AREA: Multiple crew members for Toyota teams hail from the Michigan-area. Five crew members from the No. 20 Home Depot Camry are from the Michigan-area. Mechanic Bill Byrne, who joined JGR in 1999, currently resides in Marne, Mich. Fabricator and catch can man Brian 'Shaggy' Larson, with the No. 20 team since its inception, is from Escanaba, Mich. Three other crew members from the No. 20 team are from south of MIS: mechanic Jerry Cook is from Toledo, Ohio; engine specialist Jarrad Egert, a member of the No. 20 team since 2004, is from Elmore, Ohio; and engineer Adam Stevens is from Portsmouth, Ohio. Stevens graduated from Ohio University in 2002 with a mechanical engineering degree and has been a member of the No. 20 team since 2005.
HOME SWEET HOME: "It's nice when we race in Michigan because I get to stay in my own bed for the weekend instead of some motel," says Byrne, who currently resides in Marne, Mich., where he works as a construction foreman during the week for Kent County Road Commission in Grand Rapids, Mich. "It's always nice to race at home in front of the hometown crowd."
COOK COMMENTS: "You always look forward to going back to Michigan because it is home and I get to see the family and hang out for a couple nights," says Cook, brother of Tundra driver Terry Cook. "It gets pretty hectic and I am running around like a wild man the whole time we are there. We only get to go up there three or four times a year and twice are when we race at Michigan, so it is pretty cool."
THREE MEMBERS FROM MICHIGAN AT RED BULL: Three crew members from the Red Bull Racing Team are from Michigan. Kevin Hamlin, crew chief for the No. 83 Red Bull Racing Team Toyota, is from 80 miles west of MIS in Kalamazoo, Mich., while Jake Brzozowski, rear tire carrier for the No. 83 car, is from Sterling Heights, Mich. Former driver Tim Fedewa, spotter for the No. 84 Red Bull Camry driven by Allmendinger, was born in Holt, Mich.
HAMLIN HAPPY TO BE HOME: Vickers was the top finishing Camry at MIS in June and his crew chief, Michigan- native Kevin Hamlin, looks forward to going back there this week. "I am happy to be going back home to Michigan," says Hamlin. "We had a good race there the first time this year -- finished fourth -- and Brian (Vickers) has always run well at Michigan in the past. I'm hoping it will be an opportunity where we can pick up a lot of points and gain some ground on the top-12. Indy and Pocono set us back, but don't count us out yet."
GROWING UP IN MICHIGAN: "It has always been nice for me to be able to go back home and race in the Irish Hills of Michigan," says Brzozowski. "I can remember when I was younger going to the Grand Prix of Detroit and the races at Michigan International Speedway, which I think fueled my passion for motorsports at a young age. Michigan International Speedway has and will always hold a special place in my heart for this reason."
HISTORY CONTINUES: This weekend marks the second trip to Michigan International Speedway for the Camry in the NNS. In 2007, four Camrys competed in the race, with Vickers (sixth) registering the best finish for Toyota behind race- winner and current Camry driver Hamlin. Todd Bodine, winner of the 1992 and 2000 NNS races at the track, also finished in the top-10 (eighth) in a Germain Racing Toyota. Camry drivers Jason Leffler (12th) and Reutimann (16th) were also in the field.
RACE REWIND: Busch led twice for 12 laps and scored a second-place finish in last Saturday's NNS race at Watkins Glen in the No. 92 D'Hondt Motorsports Toyota Camry in the team's first start of the season. Toyota drivers Joey Logano (seventh) and Leffler (eighth) also finished in the top-10 last Saturday. Camry drivers Reutimann (15th), Mike Wallace (18th) and Hamlin (34th) were also in the field at the 2.45-mile road course.
DOUBLE DUTY: Camry drivers Reutimann, Stewart and Vickers will compete in the NNS race Saturday and the NSCS race Sunday at the two-mile Michigan oval. Stewart will drive the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) entry in both races. Vickers will drive the No. 83 Red Bull Racing Camry in Sunday's NSCS race and the No. 32 Braun Racing Camry in the NNS race. Reutimann will once again compete for Michael Waltrip Racing in both events, pulling his regular Toyota 'double-duty.'
-credit: toyota motorsports