Toyota teams Darlington qualifying report

Darlington Raceway 500

KASEY KAHNE, No. 4 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Starting Position: 1st

How is the track different now than when you won the Truck race? “It’s a little bit different, but it’s the same tire so some of the things are similar. You just have so much more power with these Toyota engines on the Cup side. These cars just run so well and they have a lot of power. Other than that, there are some similarities for sure.”

Kasey Kahne, Red Bull Racing Team Toyota
Kasey Kahne, Red Bull Racing Team Toyota

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

Did your Truck Series win in March help you in today’s qualifying session? “I don’t think that hurts at all. We had a great truck that night and that whole day. It was a lot of fun driving for Kyle (Busch) and being able to win that race. I think anytime you make laps at this track it just builds on your confidence and builds on what you’re looking for in your car. Just trying to always go faster. The Red Bull team did an awesome job today. We made one run right at the end of practice and we got one lap right before the rain came. We were really on the loose side and ended up fifth and made the right adjustments from there to get the pole today. It felt great. The car’s been awesome all week long. The Toyota engine is running great. We just have to keep working on it for tomorrow afternoon. We had a good practice and we did all race stuff until the end. Hopefully, we’ll have a good shot tomorrow night.”

Will the speeds continue to climb at Darlington? “The teams keep getting the cars a little bit better and the engines keep getting a little bit better so we’re picking up speed. The track, as it loses grip, we’re going to slow back down. It’s already started to lose some of that time and throughout a race run we see that. On the one laps, just one clean lap, it’s still really fast. I think the cars are just getting a little bit better. I don’t know how much faster we’re going to go, but I think that was a pretty solid lap. This track at some point is going to start wearing out and kind of going the other direction. Then we’ll start slowing down a little bit.”

Why is this your first pole at Darlington since the introduction of the new car? “We’ve came pretty close a few times with this car, but we just haven’t been quite as fast. I think the first three times we qualified here we were on the pole when I first came into this series. I guess I’ve always just taken to qualifying at this place. I like running right against the wall and carrying the speed and the momentum. We hadn’t been quite as fast in a couple years and today we were really fast. It was great. The lap felt awesome. I knew we definitely had a good chance at the pole when I made the lap.”

Has it taken you some time to get used to the new pavement at Darlington? “I feel like it’s taken me a little bit because you definitely look for something different and I think that goes back to the question about not having a pole in a while here too. The cars handle a little different, but we’ll keep working on it. It’s a great track still and I really enjoy it. Can’t wait to race tonight in the Nationwide car -- it was fast in practice and we start fourth tonight in that and tomorrow night in the Red Bull car. I think we have a chance in both of them. Definitely have a chance to run up front and be one of the top cars.”

I like running right against the wall and carrying the speed and the momentum.

Kasey Kahne

Were you able to figure out in practice how good your car will be in the race? “Well, it’s kind of tough because of the rain. We didn’t get as much as we wanted and I didn’t feel like we were good enough to win tomorrow night, so we’re going to have to make a couple more adjustments and hope that it’s the right direction and then work on it throughout the race. Try to keep that track position. But, we were pretty good in practice – I really felt like we were in race trim. We were pretty good. We were great in qualifying too. I look forward to it, but as the track changes you just -- Texas I felt like we were really good in practice and it went green and we ended up 21st with no damage. That’s just kind of where we were all night. So, hopefully we can be a little bit more like Richmond and just battle up there all night.”

Was your performance at Richmond enough to turn your season around? “I think it helps. We actually started pretty good as a team. I think we were eighth in points or something maybe after the first four races. We had two wrecks that were uncontrollable and ran 21st at Texas and then we’re 18th in points. We were third last week and on the pole -- so I think we’re right there, but we’re definitely working on the cars. TRD is working on the engines and we just keep getting better each week. That’s what you have to do to keep up with everyone. I think the confidence is good and the momentum in that will carry. We have some great tracks coming up, but also just the preparation and building stuff that maybe myself and Kenny Francis (crew chief) are a little more used to. That helps us too.”

How is your knee feeling? “It’s fine actually. It felt good all week. I started biking again -- not running yet, but biking. Just been icing it a lot to keep the swelling down and it’s healing up quick. It feels really good today. I’m excited to run the Nationwide race tonight so it should be in good shape for tomorrow.”


DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 3rd

How will your race car be for tomorrow night’s race? “We’re cautiously optimistic. We had a great car during practice. I felt like we had the best car in race trim over the long runs. It’s just a track I’ve had a lot of success at. Got a good feel for it and everyone with this Sport Clips team this weekend -- Mike Ford (crew chief) has just done a great job. We unloaded good and it’s been a good weekend so far.”

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Are you happy with your qualifying lap? “I’ll be honest with you, I think that’s about all that we had in qualifying trim. It was a big pick up for us. We’ve definitely didn’t run as fast as the 4 (Kasey Kahne) car ran, but our car was extremely fast in race trim. That’s something encouraging for us -- we’re good in race trim and qualifying trim.”

What is it about Darlington that suites your driving style? “It’s tough to say. It’s a very tricky race track. A lot like Pocono, these different odd race tracks we seem to run well at. I don’t know what it is. It’s the challenge that I really do love. I just love being here in Darlington.”

Are you happy with your starting spot for tomorrow night’s race? “It’s been a good weekend so far. On the Cup side we were pretty fast right from the get go. So, actually the limited amount of practice that everyone gets is probably going to be a good thing for us. Hopefully they don’t catch us. We felt like we had a good car in race trim and obviously in qualifying trim we were right around where we were at, so it’s been good.”

Do you think your team has turned a corner after last weekend at Richmond? “It’s got to start somewhere. To be on an uphill climb, you first have got to go up and obviously Richmond was hopefully that catalyst that did that. Things have been good ever since then so hopefully that’s what we needed. I guess that’s race nine of the season and hopefully it’s just a delayed reaction from what we have usually every year. We’re getting better. Everything is getting better so far -- whether it be pit crew or team or anything like that. Communication has all been getting better these last few weeks.”

What advantage do drivers have starting toward the front of the field at Darlington? “He’s (Kasey Kahne) just a qualifying machine here. Even before his lap, you look at the stats, I think he had three poles in eight races. He’s pretty much a machine here when it comes to qualifying. This track is just a tough track to pass on -- extremely tough. When we won last year, I’m not sure where we started, but it took us quite a bit of the day to get towards the front. Starting upfront will obviously be a big advantage for us. So, anytime we qualify towards the front it’s usually indicative that we have a pretty good car for the weekend.”


BRIAN VICKERS, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Starting Position: 8th

How was your qualifying lap? “I’m pleased with my qualifying lap, but not satisfied. We made a lot of big changes there after practice and they were better. We were a little too loose.”


KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Doublemint Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 14th

How was your car in qualifying? “The car was really loose, but we’ve been that way here every year. Just didn’t quite get what we wanted out of it. We’ll see where it ends up.”


The car was really loose, but we’ve been that way here every year.

Kyle Busch

BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Lance/Tom’s Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Starting Position: 15th

Did you gain speed on your second qualifying lap? “Frank (Kerr, crew chief) didn’t say nothing so I went ahead and ran two laps because I thought well maybe that one wasn’t good. Yeah, we didn’t make a qualifying run in practice so we picked up a lot from that. The track is in good shape right now so we are going to have a lot of fast times today.”


JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 17th

How did your car handle in qualifying? “We were too tight. A little bit slow going up the hill in turn one and waiting in the gas too long in three and four. Kind of hard to say what the car was going to do. We’ll take it and go on. We made one qualifying run in practice, but you might as well have not even made it because the track was so different. We just had to shoot from the hip here.”


MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Starting Position: 29th

How was your qualifying lap? “It wasn’t very good to be honest with you. I have to change something about the way I qualify here. I always race really good, but I can never qualify worth a dang. A little bit frustrated with that. We didn’t do a qualifying run in practice, which really hurt us. We were good in race trim so we’ll see what we get tomorrow night.”


CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Starting Position: 32nd

T.J. BELL, No. 50 Little Joe’s Autos Toyota Camry, Gunselman Motorsports Starting Position: 33rd

MIKE SKINNER, No. 60 Big Red Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Starting Position: 34th

DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron’s Outdoors Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Starting Position: 36th

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 66 Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports Starting Position: 39th

JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 NEMCO Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Starting Position: 43rd

-source: toyota motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Kasey Kahne , Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Red Bull Racing , Germain Racing , Michael Waltrip Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing , NEMCO Motorsports
Tags southern 500, sprint cup