KANSAS PAST: This weekend, the Toyota Camry will compete for the second time at Kansas Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS). Last September, five Camrys participated in the rain-shortened event at the 1.5-mile oval and Dave Blaney was...
KANSAS PAST: This weekend, the Toyota Camry will compete for the second time at Kansas Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS). Last September, five Camrys participated in the rain-shortened event at the 1.5-mile oval and Dave Blaney was the highest Toyota-finisher with a 15th-place result. Current Camry driver Tony Stewart won the 2006 NSCS race at Kansas, and Nationwide Series regular Jason Leffler captured a Cup pole at Kansas in 2001.
RACE RECALL: In the most recent race on the Sprint Cup calendar at Delaware's Dover International Speedway, Michael Waltrip scored his second top-10 of the year with a 10th-place finish. Stewart (11th), Blaney (12th), AJ Allmendinger (16th) and David Reutimann (17th) also earned top-20 results in Sunday's 400-lap event. Other Camry drivers in the field at Dover included Michael McDowell (29th), Brian Vickers (31st), Ken Schrader (33rd), Denny Hamlin (38th) and Kyle Busch (43rd).
HOW TO PILE UP POINTS: Three Toyota drivers are competing for the series championship in the 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' -- Stewart (seventh), Hamlin (11th) and Busch (12th). Stewart is the most experienced Toyota 'Chase' racer this year, having competed in four and earning his second series title in 2005 under the 'Chase' format. "You literally take it one week at a time," says Stewart. "You do the things that it takes to try to win the race and then after the end of the day you look at the point standings and say, 'Okay, where am I at now?' The goal each week is to win the race. You may not get the most points for winning the race if somebody else has led the most laps, but you're still going to have a good points day. That's the approach that I've always had and always will have -- just go out and do what you can do to try to win the race each day."
TIME TO TALLY: Hamlin is in his third career 'Chase' appearance after competing in the 2006 and 2007 championship pursuits. The driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 11 FedEx Camry knows how to handle the demands a championship bid can put on a team. "When things go good, it's easy to maintain," Hamlin says. "But, when things go bad, it's easy to hit the panic button. I did that last year. Having one bad race, and the next thing you know, I was trying to make up for it at other tracks. You have to realize that there's no one week that's more important than the next. You can get down to the end and say 'this race killed us,' but you could've made up points in the eight previous. You have to realize that 10 weeks is a long stretch, and you're not going to win in the first three or four weeks, but you can lose it."
OTHERS APPROACH: In addition to the 12 'Chase' drivers, there are 31 other competitors that make up the 43-car field every week. While they are not vying for the championship, they are still racing for wins and points. "I think you race hard for every position you can," says Vickers, currently 17th in NSCS points. "You have to respect the fact that they're racing for a championship, but at the same time, you have to do your race, as well."
DAVID'S DEAL: "Nothing is really any different than what we've done before," says Reutimann, currently 22nd in the points after four consecutive top-20 results. "Our deal is just to try to do the same stuff we've been trying to do all year long -- being a little more consistent and finish out on a high note."
JOEY JUMPS IN AGAIN: Joey Logano will make his second career NSCS start at Kansas when he climbs behind the wheel of the Hall of Fame Racing No. 96 DLP HDTV Camry. Though this will be the 18-year-old's first race at Kansas, he tested with JGR a few years ago at the track. "My first ARCA test was at Kansas and Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, No. 20 crew chief) came with us," recalls Logano. "That was kind of my 'let's see how this kid is' kind of thing. It was fun and I liked the track -- we were fastest at the test. It's going to be different in a Cup car, but we'll get the hang of it and figure it out."
FRYE'S OTHER FIELD: Red Bull Racing Team vice president and general manager Jay Frye is a 1987 graduate of the University of Missouri. While at Mizzou, Frye was a tight end and offensive lineman for the Tigers football program (1983- 1986). "I played college football at the University of Missouri and I still follow the team religiously," says Frye of his Alma Mater. "They're ranked fifth right now and doing great, so they 're a lot of fun to watch. Our racing schedule unfortunately doesn't allow for me to get to their games very often. This weekend the Offensive Coordinator, Andy Hill, and the Director of Football Operations, Barry Odom, are coming out to the track as my guests so I'm looking forward to giving them an inside look into the world of NASCAR. Ironically, my number in college was the No. 83 and Andy's was the No. 84, so maybe that will bring us some good luck for the race."
MULTIPLE MIDWESTERNERS: Many Toyota team members have roots in the region surrounding Kansas Speedway. Tyler Epp, general manager of Hall of Fame Racing, is from Lawrence, Kan., located just 40 miles west of the track. Steve Boyer, crew chief for the No. 96 Hall of Fame Racing Camry, hails from North Platte, Neb., which is about six hours northwest of Kansas City. Boyer, 36, earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1993 from the University of Nebraska. Tim Sparkman, shock specialist for the No. 11 JGR entry, is from St. Louis. The Michael Waltrip Racing team includes the No. 44 team gas runner Wayne Johnson and scorer Rosemary Johnson, who both still live in Miller, Mo. Chris Hall, front tire carrier for the No. 55 NAPA team, is from Springfield, Mo., which is just under four hours southeast of the track.
WRESTLER REPETITIONS: Like many pit crew members who played sports before moving to NASCAR, Aaron Shields (front tire carrier for the No. 83 Red Bull Racing Camry) made a name for himself in his home state of Kansas as a nationally- recognized wrestler. A native of Goodland, Kan., his wrestling titles include being a four-time Kansas Juniors champion, a two-time Kansas high school state champion and was a high school All-American ranked ninth in the nation during his senior year. "Wrestling is all about repetition and doing drills over and over until doing them becomes second nature in a match," says Shields. "That's very similar to how our pit crew prepares for pit stops. In practice, we also do drills and practice our techniques on a daily basis which has prepared me for carrying tires. Everything feels like second nature on race day, and you need that because you never know what is going to happen during a pit stop."
HEADING HOME: Lee White, president and general manager of TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development), is originally from Ellsworth, Kan., and has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Missouri at St. Louis. White, who was promoted to president and general manager of TRD in June, is responsible for engine development, manufacturing, chassis design/development, team/manufacturer relationships, manufacturer/sanctioning body relations and engineering support for Toyota teams in NASCAR, USAC, NHRA, Grand-Am and Off-Road competition.
DOUBLE DUTY: Four Toyota drivers will compete in both the NSCS and NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) events at Kansas. Hamlin will pilot the No. 18 JGR Camry in Saturday's Nationwide event in addition to his usual Cup duties in the No. 11 entry. Vickers will be behind the wheel of his No. 83 Red Bull Racing entry in the NSCS race and the No. 32 Braun Racing entry in the NNS. In addition to his duties in the No. 20 GameStop Camry, Logano will compete in Sunday's 400- mile event in the No. 96 Camry. Reutimann will continue his regular Toyota 'double-duty' for Michael Waltrip Racing in both events.
-credit: toyota motorsports