Denny Hamlin (fifth) earned a top-five finish in Sunday afternoon’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Alabama’s Talladega Superspeedway. Hamlin and his No. 11 Camry TRD team entered the event with a goal of Playoff points and accomplished that to place themselves 21 points above the cutoff line heading into next week’s road course race at the Roval in Charlotte. Fellow Toyota Playoff driver, Christopher Bell (17th) spun coming to pit road at the end of stage one and was never able to recover to gain the points the team needed and will enter next week’s race below the cut line before the Round of 8 is set.
Toyota Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Race 30 of 36 – 500.08 miles, 188 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, Chase Elliott*
2nd, Ryan Blaney *
3rd, Michael McDowell*
4th, Ross Chastain*
5th, DENNY HAMLIN
16th, BUBBA WALLACE
17th, CHRISTOPHER BELL
20th, KYLE BUSCH
26th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
37th, TY GIBBS
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 5th
What more did you need in stage three to contend for the victory?
“Not much really, it’s just so hard to pass and I know you’ve all heard that. It’s just a train of two lines. You really can’t run three-wide with this car so you just have to sit behind whoever is right there in front of you and hope you can push that line a little bit forward. Hopefully, they switch lanes and you can leap forward. That’s kind of what we’ve got right now so I feel like we executed a pretty good day. Our goal going into the day was five stage points and we got more than five the first stage and not in stage two and then tried to go and get a good finish and that’s what we did. Overall, a good day. I was able to give Chase (Elliott) a push right there and I thought about, should I go with him and force three wide. But I’m on the bottom and I know I’ve always got someone coming up behind me. Then I’d be in the middle and just the risk wasn’t worth going back to 15th and getting stuck in the middle. To me, this is a three-race season that we have and we’re points racing.”
How do you feel being 21 points above the cut line heading to the Roval next weekend?
“We accomplished what we were trying to do. What other guys did, we couldn’t change that. Would I like to have more, yes. We executed the day that we wanted to better than what we started the day. We’ll take it.”
What could you have done in those closing laps to get the win or was there anything?
“I didn’t need much more. It’s a lot more difficult to make maneuvers with this car. You can’t run three-wide. You’re stuck in two different lanes and I chose the bottom lane, I was committed to it. When I pushed Chase (Elliott) to the top lane there, I thought about going with him, but it would have put me middle with the 43 (Erik Jones) and I didn’t think the risk of going back to 15th or 20th was worth it. I just stuck bottom and rode it out and ended up with a top-five. We executed the day we wanted to honestly. We came in here trying to get 30 points and we executed that.”
What is your confidence level going into the Roval next weekend?
“Certainly, this week’s results didn’t give us any comfort for next week. The Roval is always crazy and obviously we need to get our program really good on road courses, but it gives us somewhat of a cushion there to survive the day and make sure we do the things we know how to do and don’t get in trouble. We should be fine, but you never know. You could have a winner from the bottom four and everything changes. We’re going to do everything we can to fight. Live to race another day.”
With all the talk about safety this week, why do you think the field didn’t race conservatively?
“Yeah, we tried to. We pushed as hard as we could. There were a few moments where I didn’t want any harder pushes than what I was giving. I typically don’t slam draft. I typically slow down and push. I think the track is pretty bumpy too down in turn three and it makes it really, really violent and you see a lot of cars getting out of shape. These cars are pretty stable as long as you’re square. You’re not going to get us to back down much, especially when checkered flags and points are on the line.”
Were you surprised that there was no wreck in the closing laps and in overtime?
“I’m not surprised. We went green here in the spring. This is the type of speedway racing that we have and this car will not run three wide. It’s only a two-lane car. You can’t put drag on two sides of it so you have to be on the inside lane or the outside lane and when you don’t have three wide or four wide, it’s just a less likelihood that you’re going to have wrecks. As a car owner, I love it because I had a $200,000 bill here in the spring. It may be less eventful watching, but there’s a lot going on that we’re all trying to fight. You saw with the pushing, we’re all trying to get as aggressive as you could, but it’s all about the line that you’re in at that point.”
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 SiriusXM Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 17th
How was your race overall? Not the result you wanted.
“Just a very disappointing finish. Needed to score a lot of points and unfortunately, we didn’t get enough today. So we’ll have to go to the Roval and do our best. I feel okay about our chances there. I think we’ll be competitive and just have to go there and try to win.”
TY GIBBS, No. 23 Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 37th
What was your vantage point of the accident that ended your day?
“Definitely just sucks to be a part of that. I was working with Bubba (Wallace) there and following him. I thought we had some good teamwork going there and I let him in. We were trying to get the top rolling. I think the 21 (Harrison Burton) just got a bad push and wrecked. There was just nowhere for me to go. It definitely sucks, but it could be a blessing in disguise. We’ll just move on to the Roval and go hammer down there.”
Toyota Racing PR