Denny Hamlin proved he’s a championship contender by winning the NASCAR Cup Series race at ISM Raceway. Hamlin, along with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., advance to the NASCAR Championship 4, giving Toyota three drivers in the four driver winner take all event next week. Sunday’s win also secures Toyota the manufacturer title for the third time.
Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Race 35 of 36 – 312 miles, 312 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, DENNY HAMLIN
2nd, KYLE BUSCH
3rd, Ryan Blaney*
4th, Kyle Larson*
5th, Kevin Harvick*
6th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
7th, ERIK JONES
13th, MATT DiBENEDETTO
· Denny Hamlin led 143 laps, won the first stage, and was victorious in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Seires race at Arizona’s ISM Raceway, which advances him to the Championship 4.
· Kyle Busch (second place) started from the pole position and led 69 laps (of 312) to secure a place in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend.
· Martin Truex Jr. (sixth), who previously secured a final four position with his Martinsville victory, along with Busch and Hamlin’s Championship 4 appearances will give Toyota three of the four drivers contending for the championship next Sunday.
· Today’s Phoenix victory was the 18th for Toyota this season, a single-season record for the manufacturer and enabled Toyota to secure the Cup Series manufacturer’s championship with one race to go.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
FInishing Position: 1st
How does it feel to win the race to advance to the final four?
“The caution was the most nervous moment. I was counting down, I have a clock inside the car and I was looking at the clock and thinking, 20 more minutes of laps, 10 more minutes of laps, five more minutes of laps. I knew it was enevetable. I’ve been through so much at this race track. Obviously in 2010 and the downfall of our championship run there to get it all back 10 years later, this is special to me.”
What did you think coming to the restart after only taking two tires?
“I was nervous. I knew the 4 (Kevin Harvick) was going to be a big deal. My teammates, the 18 (Kyle Busch) was the closest one to us but we got a really good push from Martin (Truex Jr.) there on that final restart. I think he went to go three wide and I went to block and I think he knew I was probably going to wreck if I didn’t win this race. We just did everything we could, did everything right and unfortunate we had to be put in a crazy situation there at the end.”
Best drive of your career, Denny.
“One of the best cars of my career, I can tell you that. Fast car. But, yeah, I pushed for all I had. I mean, that’s all I got. Once we got the big lead there, a little over 10 seconds, I just kind of sat there. I got to thinking about if the caution does come out, I want to lap as many as I can. That’s all we had. So proud of this whole FedEx racing team, proud of Toyota for locking up the manufacturer’s championship this week. Toyota, the Jordan Brand, Little Big Burger, the entire FedEx group for an unbelievable team.”
Were the nerves there understanding how big this moment was for your career?
“Yeah, I mean, I try not to put too much into it. There’s still work to be done. Doesn’t guarantee a championship. Gives us a chance. Live to fight another day. That’s all you can ask for.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
How big of a swing did the car and everything else take once you lost that clean air out front?
“Yeah, little bit, I guess. Just didn’t quite have enough. I knew the 11 was the best car in practice. I knew we were going to be about third to fifth. We were second. Guys did a great job, this M&M Camry was good. Thanks to everybody at JGR, Stanley, Toyota, TRD. It’s cool to have a chance to go race for a championship. Just keep coming up short.”
How do you go to Miami and do what this team hasn’t been able to do in the last 21 races?
“Yeah, thanks for the reminder. Fight as hard as we can, do the best job we can, exactly what we did today. Today we just weren’t good enough. Next week we’ll just have to make sure that we are. Somehow, some way, if it works out, it was meant to be. If it doesn’t, then it’s not. Hopefully the sun will come up for another day.”
Did you have anything for Denny Hamlin at the end?
“No, I guess if I would have, I would have been a little closer. We gave it everything we had today. The M&M’s Camry was good out front and then we lost the lead and could never get it back. Kind of seemed that way for a few guys, I guess the 22 (Joey Logano) most notably. We were a little bit slower than the 11 (Denny Hamlin) all weekend long. We kind of saw it in practice just a little bit. They had a really good car, did a really good car and they executed well and took two tires there at the end. It’s funny, two tires can overdo four. I have yet to understand that, again. But, must be an aero package thing. So, we’ll just go on to Homestead with a chance to race for a championship and give it our best.”
What was going through your mind when the late caution came out with so much on the line?
“Doesn’t surprise me. Just come on down and get a chance with my guys to put four tires on my car and make some adjustments and try to go out there and out race him in a shootout. Denny (Hamlin) was so far ahead of us on rolling on pit road that we just weren’t going to have a shot to beat him off pit road. Overall though, the guys did a great job. Our M&M’s Camry was good this weekend, just not great. The 11 (Denny Hamlin) was definitely better than us all weekend and they showed it and executed it again today. We get to go race for a championship now, so we’ll focus on next week.”
Toyota Racing PR