Richmond II: Joe Gibbs Racing preview

KYLE BUSCH & DENNY HAMLIN Who Doesn't Like Kittens, Bunnies and Little Baby Seals? HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 8, 2010) - It seems as though everyone has seen the commercial - the famous 30-second Toyota advertisement that has Kyle Busch sitting...

Who Doesn't Like Kittens, Bunnies and Little Baby Seals?

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Sept. 8, 2010) - It seems as though everyone has seen the commercial - the famous 30-second Toyota advertisement that has Kyle Busch sitting in a pink firesuit next to a pink racecar and uttering the now-famous line, "Who doesn't like kittens, bunnies and little baby seals?"

The commercial was part of Toyota Racing's "Sponsafy Your Ride" promotion, which encouraged fans to go to and design their own paint scheme. In the commercial featuring Busch, a young girl named "Kimmy" designs a pink racecar featuring kittens, bunnies and little baby seals that Busch was fictionally scheduled to drive.

Fiction has now become fact.

Thanks to Z-Line Designs, Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and Toyota, the pink racecar designed by young "Kimmy" will move from the small screen to the .75-mile Richmond (Va.) International Raceway oval, where Busch will don a pink firesuit and drive the overwhelmingly pink No. 18 Toyota Kimmy-Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry in the Richmond 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Busch's spotter Eddie D'Hondt should have no problem identifying the pink car under the lights Friday night as the machine will be a replica of the one used in the popular commercial. Z-Line Designs, which sponsors Busch in a majority of Nationwide Series races, happily agreed to trade its normal red-and-black logos for pink-and-purple on the "Kimmy" car at Richmond.

The standard red-and-black Z-Line Designs scheme will be featured on Denny Hamlin's No. 20 Toyota Camry for JGR - marking the third time that Z-Line Designs has had "team cars" competing in the same race. Both previous times proved very successful for the San Ramon, Calif.-based company.

In September 2009 at Richmond, Busch led 30 of 250 laps en route to a third-place finish in the No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, while Hamlin led 101 circuits in the No. 20 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry and appeared on his way to victory before contact with another car caused him to cut down a tire and make an unscheduled pit stop. He finished a disappointing 17th.

Earlier this season, at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, Busch and Hamlin's Toyota's again sported duel Z-Line Designs livery and they thoroughly dominated the 147-lap race, leading a combined 128 circuits en route to an incredible 1-2 finish. Busch led 17 laps while Hamlin led 111 and edged his teammate to the checkered flag by .625 of a second.

A 1-2 finish at Richmond might not come as a surprise given Busch and Hamlin's past performances at the .75-mile oval. Busch has won three Nationwide Series race at Richmond (May 2004, September 2007 and May 2009), while Hamlin found victory lane in May 2008. Hamlin also won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in September 2009, while Busch took the checkered flag in May 2009 and May 2010.

The phrase "Who doesn't like kittens, bunnies and little baby seals?" will be said often during Friday's practice, qualifying and race. But for Hamlin and Busch, the real-life question might be, "Who doesn't like victory lane?"

Kyle Busch, Driver of the No. 18 Toyota Kimmy-Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

What was it like making the Sponsafier commercial?

"The commercial was a neat deal and a lot of fun. I got to show up there and read the script to see what it was all about. I thought it would be pretty neat and, it turns out, it was a big hit."

What was your first thought when you saw the firesuit with the kittens on it?

"I just said, 'All right, whatever, let's do it.' I wasn't too offended by it at all, so it wasn't too big of a deal. It was a neat commercial and the way that it turned out was really fun. Doing it and showing some sarcasm during it was neat."

What do you think of the cars that have been designed?

"There have been quite a few that have been really, really cool and a lot that have just been 'cutsie' designs by kids or maybe even adults, you don't know. It's been neat how big this deal has taken off and how much Toyota has gotten out of it and how much the fans have really been receptive to it. They've built so many cars online. There are a lot out there and a lot to pick a winner from. When they told me we were going to run the Sponsafier car for the Richmond Nationwide race I was pretty excited, since I know how much fun making the commercial was and the reception we've gotten. Along with Toyota, of course, I've got to thank Jim and Monica Sexton and everyone at Z-Line Designs. When they heard about this scheme, they were excited and knew it would be a lot of fun, so it's great that Toyota and Z-Line worked together on this scheme. We've got the pink suit and even (Jason, crew chief) Ratcliff has one up there on the box for Friday night. I'm looking forward to it and hope we can get our Camry to victory lane."

What type of reaction have you received from fans?

"There's been a huge reaction. Everybody has been pumped about the commercials and more pumped about seeing me in the pink suit and driving that car. Overall, it's been a big deal to the fans and they've seen a lot of it and they think it's one of the best."

Jason Ratcliff, Crew Chief of the No. 18 Toyota Kimmy-Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

Have you ever been a crew chief for a pink racecar?

"It's a good opportunity and I'm sure that's everybody's favorite commercial - the Toyota pink car commercial with the baby seals. It's going to be interesting. I told somebody last week that if we're going to race a pink car, we better run well because you can't show up with a pink car and run badly. If you do, it's like a double-whammy. It will be fun and, with the new-generation car, it will be interesting. We'll have a full plate trying to learn the new-generation car - learn it at Richmond - so we'll have a lot going on. It should be fun and I know it's something Kyle's been looking forward to. He loves that pink suit. You know Kyle - he likes to stand out in the crowd."

What was your first thought when heard you were running the pink car?

"He (Kyle Busch) said, 'We're running the pink car at Richmond.' I was, like, wow. I bet Dave Rogers (Busch's Sprint Cup crew chief) loves that, and he said we are running the pink car at Richmond. I didn't understand how we got into this deal. It's cool and I'm glad we can do it. It will be a lot of fun and Z-Line Designs is on board with it. It was one of Z-Line's races, originally, so they'll be on the car, as well, in pink letters or purple letters. It will be fun and should be exciting."

Do you get to wear a pink firesuit for the race?

"I do. I was making fun of Kyle and he said he was going to fix me up and he said he was going to make sure I was going to get one. I told him I was not getting a pink firesuit but, unfortunately, I'm getting a pink firesuit. I have to find out what kind of shoes you wear with a pink firesuit. I don't want to look out of place and wear my black shoes with a pink fire suit. I'm going to try to stay up on top of the pit box and hide."

Denny Hamlin, No. 20 Z-Line Designs NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry:

In May 2008, you finally scored a NASCAR victory at Richmond. Can you talk about that Nationwide Series win?

"It's unbelievable that we were able to get it done in my home state. That's one of the biggest wins of my career. It meant so much to finally break through at Richmond. We weren't that good most of the day, but Dave (Rogers, crew chief) just kept making the car better and better throughout the day. I always said that circumstances were going to have to come our way for us to get a win at Richmond. It seems like we never win, whether we have the best car or the worst car. Some guys decided to stay out and not take tires and I knew it was our race to lose. It was so gratifying to get a win in front of the hometown crowd."

What did it mean to win in front of your family and friends?

"It was awesome. Even with all the commotion in victory lane, I could still hear the fans. That meant more to me than anything anybody could give me, or any trophy I could ever have."

Kyle Busch's Car

Chassis No. 18-102: This is a new-generation Nationwide Series car that has never been on track.

Denny Hamlin's Car

Chassis No. 20-105: This is a new-generation Nationwide Series car that has never been on track.

-source: jgr

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About this article
Drivers Denny Hamlin , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing , Toyota Racing