Preparing for Watkins Glen
Denny Hamlin Quotes
What are you expecting to see at Watkins Glen this weekend?
“I think this weekend will be a crazy race for a lot of reasons. Many of the guys outside the top-10 will be looking to do anything to get that first or second win, the road course guys will be in the mix and battling, and the guys at the back half of the top-10 will try to avoid the madness and get a good finish. As we saw in Sonoma earlier this year, guys drive very aggressive on these road courses, and with the ‘wild card’ format for the Chase, anything is possible. Our team is in a position where a string of good finishes can keep us comfortably in the top-10. Watkins Glen has been a good track for us in the past, we just had some bad luck the past couple years. Our road course cars have been pretty fast lately. We had a good car in Sonoma, and I’m expecting another fast car this weekend. We’ll see how it shakes out.”
What are the keys to success at Watkins Glen?
“Compared to Sonoma, the Glen is a lot faster. You need to be smart with the brakes, especially running down into turn one where you have your main opportunity for passing, and it’s a place where you are carrying a bunch of speed. You are working to get the car slowed down and trying to turn as all of that weight is shifting to the front of the car under braking. Getting that brake balance right is really important, and like Sonoma, fuel strategy is big, too.”
FedEx Express Notes
Pocono Recap: Denny Hamlin finished 29th in Sunday’s rain-shortened NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, getting collected in an incident on a restart shortly before the skies opened up on the 2.5-mile track. Hamlin started second in the #11 FedEx Ground Toyota and quickly took the lead from polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya on Lap 8, pacing the field for the next three circuits. However, the handling of the car wasn’t to Hamlin’s liking, and he worked with crew chief Darian Grubb on a variety of changes to try to tighten up the machine. Differing pit strategies and long green-flag runs kept Hamlin just outside the top-10 for much of the afternoon, as teams prepared for the incoming weather. Following the race’s second caution period just past the scheduled halfway distance, Hamlin restarted on the outside. The lead group spun high and came back down the track directly in the path of Hamlin, who had nowhere to go. The contact caused extensive damage to the #11 machine, ending its day early in 29th. Rain came shortly thereafter, and leader Jeff Gordon was awarded the victory. The finish dropped Hamlin three spots to eighth in the NASCAR standings following Pocono, 61 points behind leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. after 21 of 26 regular season races.
Watkins Glen Preview: The Sprint Cup Series shifts to upstate New York for the season’s second and final road course event, Sunday at Watkins Glen International. Hamlin is making his seventh-career Cup start at the 2.45-mile, 11-turn circuit, looking to avenge a crash one year ago that led to a 36th-place finish. Hamlin finished in the top-10 in his first four trips to The Glen, including a career-best runner-up result in 2007. He finished eighth in 2008 and owns a pair of 10th-place finishes — in 2006 and 2009. In six events, the FedEx team has started worse than 14th only once, including an outside pole run in 2007 and third-place starting position in 2009.
Kyle Busch Quotes
What is the most fun part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“To me, going through turn one and up through the esses are pretty cool and a lot of fun. It’s challenging but, yet, a lot of fun. As you come down the front straightaway, it’s a downhill braking zone, so you feel like you don’t have to brake as soon as you need to, but you need to in order to get slowed down for turn one. You try to stay out and get a good, hard cut to the right for turn one and accelerate out of there as quickly as you can to get set up for the esses. (You) stay wide on the left and then turn into the right-hander in (turn) two – smooth. You’re getting out of the gas but not using too much brake, just rolling off in there. As the car gets in there and loads, it actually takes a really big set because that’s when you start going back uphill. So the car will load up and that’s when you get back in the gas really wide open. And then you have to turn back to the left and be able to roll back out of it just enough to make the car bend. And then you’re back wide open again to the right-side guardrail and just keeping it tight through the right-hander that we call turn five.”
What is the most challenging part of a lap at Watkins Glen?
“I’d say the most challenging thing is the culmination of the inner loop and the carousel. All of that together is a lot harder to figure out how to make speed through there than just going through there traditionally. That’s an area of the racetrack a lot of guys really try to abuse. They’ll get off on the right side, get off on the left side and throw dirt up on the racetrack and then it just makes for a real mess.”
How are you approaching the next five races in light of your current Chase situation?
“It’s so frustrating because we’ve had good racecars every week and, aside from Indy a few weeks ago, we just haven’t had anything go our way. That’s the way our season has gone. I don’t think we’ll be able to get back to the top-10, so we need to win to get in. We have some really good racetracks coming up. I think I’ve won at every one of them. I know Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys will keep bringing me good racecars. We just have to try to avoid problems and be there at the end.”
What does it take to be successful at Watkins Glen?
“At Watkins Glen, the biggest thing is pit strategy. Obviously, you’ve got to pick and choose when you’re going to pit and stick to your plan. Whether or not we can still do it on two stops, I’m unsure because Sonoma turned into a three-stop race for us all because the new fuel mileage is a little bit off from where we were last year. At Watkins Glen, though, you definitely have to be good at being able to carry speed, obviously, through the esses and down the long backstretch. That seems to be the key part of the racetrack.”
Will we see the same action on the road courses that we’ve been accustomed to over the last few years?
“I think you will. Yeah, you’ll see a little bit of it, especially on restarts and stuff like that. Watkins Glen is a place where we get a little bit more spread out throughout the run. Certainly, there are some areas where some guys can make some moves. Like, getting into turn one, you can out-brake somebody really good. Getting into the bus stop, you can out-brake somebody pretty good there, too. It’s like Marcos (Ambrose) did to me in 2009 in the Nationwide Series, and he and Brad (Keselowski) did to me in the Cup race last year. If you out-brake somebody getting in there and you both are already on so much edge, one of you is going to have to give. If you’re that guy on the inside, you’re going to run into the guy on your left and you’re going to put him off into the island, there, in the grass. You’ve got to be conscious of that. That’s why I got out of the way and stopped when I had my problem there.”
Do you prefer Watkins Glen over the road course in Sonoma, Calif.?
“No, not really. I like both road courses. They’re both fun. For me, road racing is enjoyable. You get a chance to turn right and turn left and do something different than what you typically do. For me, I’m excited about it. Hopefully, we have a good shot at running well there again this year with our M&M’s Camry. We won four years ago and should have been able to win last year, so we’ve been decent and, hopefully this time around, we can get another win.”
Kyle Busch: Just Win, Baby
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Aug. 7, 2012) – The late Al Davis, former owner of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, never missed a chance to tell his players to “Just Win Baby.”
While he’s widely known for his passion and commitment to winning any time he straps himself into a racecar, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will have a heightened sense of urgency to win starting with Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fingers Lakes 355k at The Glen on the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course.
Just five races remain before the cutoff for the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Busch finds himself outside the top-10 in the driver point standings and also currently without one of the two additional wild-card spots after a shattered brake rotor ruined his day Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase, which begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Chase positions 11 and 12 are wild cards and are awarded to those drivers between 11th and 20th in points who have the most wins. In the event multiple drivers end up with the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kasey Kahne, who’s 11th in the point standings, also holds the top wild-card spot thanks to his two victories this season, the most of any driver outside the top-10 in points. Jeff Gordon, who’s 13th in points, vaulted into the other wild-card spot with his first win of the season Sunday at Pocono. Ryan Newman, Busch and his JGR teammate Joey Logano, who stand 14th, 15th and 17th in the points, respectively, also have one win apiece this season and have five remaining races to try and surpass Gordon in wins and tie Kahne. Busch sits just 12 points behind Gordon in the driver standings but a hefty 80 points behind 10th-place Clint Bowyer. Thus, winning is his most realistic chance to make the Chase by way of a wild-card berth.
The good news for Busch is that he’s won a Sprint Cup race at each of the remaining five venues on the “regular-season” calendar. In fact, the talented 27-year-old has rung up a whopping 12 total career wins at the next five races on the schedule. The Las Vegas native has five wins at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, four at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, and one win apiece at Watkins Glen, Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In addition to Busch’s 2008 win at Watkins Glen, he came agonizingly close to his second Sprint Cup win on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course one year ago. After leading three times for a race-high 49 laps, Busch found himself in a three-wide situation on a late restart with Brad Keselowski and eventual race-winner Marcos Ambrose. Busch was forced to fall back and had to settle for a second-place finish after an otherwise dominant day by the M&M’s team. While he has proven his worth on road courses, in general, Busch will understandably be looking for redemption Sunday after being so close to winning at The Glen one year ago.
So, with just five races remaining before the Chase is set, Busch will channel his inner Al Davis by shooting for wins that will vault him into championship contention. Thankfully, his track record over the left and right turns at Watkins Glen provide the perfect opportunity to “Just Win Baby” and help rally Busch into the NASCAR playoffs.
Joey Logano Quotes
“It’s always a lot of fun to go back to the road course races. It gives you a little break from the regular oval events and really lets you work it. I feel like we’ve gotten a lot better over the last few years at the road courses and we are coming off of a top-five finish at Watkins Glen last season. The more I drive these road course events, the better I feel at them and the more comfortable I am. It used to be there were three or four guys who just dominated at these road courses, but really, everyone has gotten so much better and the cars keep getting better I think there are 10-15 guys, if not more, who could go out there and win at a road course. I like to think I’m in that category too.”
“It also helps to be back at the track in the Nationwide Series this weekend. Every weekend, the extra track time helps you but maybe even more on these weekends. You don’t drive them exactly the same and your braking points are different, but you can still learn stuff about how to enter a corner different or how to make a pass better in this section when you have more track time. Plus, it just helps polish your skills. So I’m looking forward to Watkins Glen. I don’t think I’d be out of line to say if we have a good handling car and I don’t make any big mistakes on the track that we’ve got a really good shot at winning.”
No. 20 Home Depot Toyota News & Notes:
- LOOKING TO CONTINUE ROAD COURSE IMPROVEMENT: When Joey Logano first broke through in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he was not considered a very good road racer. However, with a few years of road racing in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series, some great mentoring from road race veteran Max Papis and a couple of road race schools, Logano has become quite proficient on NASCAR’s left and right turn circuits. Earlier this season, Logano scored a top-10 finish at Sonoma and has finished in the top-10 in his last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series road course events (both Sonoma and Watkins Glen in 2011, Sonoma in 2012). He also has a road course pole, which came at Sonoma last season while his best NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish on a road course is fifth, which came last year at The Glen. Logano’s success on the road courses hasn’t only been in the Sprint Cup Series either. He has finished second and third the last two seasons in the Nationwide Series event at Watkins Glen.
- SPENDING SOME TIME AT VICTORY JUNCTION: Logano will spend some time this week visiting the campers of Victory Junction Gang Camp in Randleman, NC as part of the camp’s annual NASCARnival celebrations. Logano will head to the camp with several members of his No. 20 Home Depot Racing crew on Tuesday and participate in the camp’s carnival night. Members of the No. 20 Home Depot team will perform a live pit stop and teach members of the camp to do the same. Logano will also participate in the number of other activities during the “pirate” themed event. Built in honor of Adam Petty, Victory Junction provides life-changing experiences for kids with chronic medical conditions and serious illnesses. Victory Junction has enriched the lives of more than 14,000 children and families since opening in 2004 and welcomed children from 50 states and four countries.
- A BUSY WEEK BEFORE “THE GLEN”: In addition to spending the day and night at Victory Junction on Tuesday, Logano will also be traveling up and down the road, literally, and flying back and forth across the country this week. Logano will partake in the annual Parade of Power for Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday. The Parade of Power consists of one vehicle from every car that will race at CMS during the late summer/fall and it driven down Bruton Smith Blvd. at high noon from Concord Mills Mall to the front of Speedway’s main entrance. The track will then host a press conference and autograph session with Joey and the other drivers that will be in attendance and invite fans out to take in the festivities. Logano then will fly to San Antonio, TX to take part in a sponsorship dinner before heading back to North Carolina just in time to travel to Watkins Glen.
- BACK TO DOUBLE DUTY WEEKEND: In the heart of the season, Logano has been taking some NASCAR Nationwide Series races off to focus on his Sprint Cup Series program. This weekend though, Logano will be back to double duty, driving in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events at Watkins Glen. Logano notes that the extra race will give him much needed track time on the seven-turn, 2.25-mile road course.
- WEEKEND APPEARANCES: n addition to his appearance at Wednesday’s Parade of Power at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Logano will be making a couple of appearances this weekend at Watkins Glen. He will be at the Toyota Pit Pass in the vendor midway from 9:15-9:40am on Sunday morning and will follow that up with an autograph session at his souvenir hauler starting at 9:45am.
- RACE INFO: The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Watkins Glen International (Watkins Glen, NY; 2.25-mile road course) is set for Sunday, August 12th at 12pm ET. The race will be broadcast on ESPN (TV) and MRN (radio).