JGR Drivers Thoughts on Texas
From Darian Grubb
What was it like to have Denny next to you during practices rather than in the car?
“It’s entertaining — he (Hamlin) said that he learned more in the one hour of watching practice than he typically learns in three or four months of practice himself. Just being able to watch other drivers and scan radios and those things. He says he learned a lot more about what he can pick up and help us on feedback. I hope it’s going to be a positive move for us in the long run.”
How will the learning curve of the new car be impacted with Denny in the car at test events?
“I think it gives us a little more broad perspective on everything we’re doing and the importance of every little detail. With Denny (Hamlin) being out of the car and sitting back and watching some of those things and we will go to Texas and we have the test day there — it’s nice for him to see what we do to prep every week and what we’re doing now. He’s more active in that so it makes him appreciate more of what we do and the time we spend on it. We get even closer feedback on his opinions and stuff — he realizes how important it is now because all we can see is what we can physically see on the track with the car going around. We can’t tell a lot about the handling usually with that. We see general trends, but that’s it. The detail feedback and scans of other drivers and listening to the way Mark (Martin) and Brian (Vickers) are describing cars is going to be a big eye-opening thing for him.”
FedEx Express Notes
Racing for a Cause in Texas: Brian Vickers will fill in for Hamlin this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, driving the special #11 FedEx Office/March of Dimes Toyota. This season marks the sixth year that FedEx has teamed up with the March of Dimes for a special paint scheme on the #11 machine, and this year, almost 30,000 fans voted on the look of the car. The March of Dimes is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2013, and nine-year-old Nina Centofanti, the organization’s national ambassador, will be at the track with her family throughout the weekend. The FedEx Racing team encourages everyone to participate in a March for Babies walk, happening in more than 900 communities throughout the country in April, and has set up a team page to help raise awareness for the organization’s mission to help all mothers have full-term pregnancies. To join the FedEx team, visit www.marchforbabies.org/team/fedex11 to help make a difference.
Martinsville Recap: Mark Martin finished 10th in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, subbing for injured driver Denny Hamlin in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota. Martin started 35th on the tough, half-mile ‘paper clip’ and overcame early contact on the track and a pit road miscue to log the FedEx team’s second top-10 finish of the 2013 season in the event won by Jimmie Johnson. Battling a tight race car in the middle of the corner throughout the early portion of the 500-lap race, Martin settled in near the top-20 before sustaining left-side damage after being collected in a wreck in front of him. Luckily, the damage was not severe, and Martin came into the pits for minor repairs. After the race’s midpoint, Martin had moved into the top-20 during a long green-flag run and held off the leaders coming through lapped traffic before another caution. While in the pits for service, the #11 car came off the jack before the left-side tires were secure, causing more damage and a penalty for repairs outside the pit box, and the team lost a lap to the leaders. However, a pair of quick cautions allowed the team to take advantage of the wavearound to get back on the lead lap and then get fresh tires for the final dash to the checkered flag. The car was at its best for the final 100 laps, where Martin moved towards the front to take the checkered flag in 10th. Martin’s finish moved the #11 car into ninth in the NASCAR owner’s standings after six of 26 regular season races.
Kyle Busch Quotes
What do you think about making your 300th start at Texas?
“I think it’s Junior’s (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) 600th soon, so I’m only halfway there for him and for what he’s been able to do here. It’s cool and all – I just always think the results are never kind of where you want them to be. You always want to win more and you always want a top-five more or a top-10 more or whatever. To be in 300 races, I think that’s pretty cool and it just shows that I’ve been here for a while. Yet there are still a lot more races to run and a lot more time for me to be here. Just continue on and press forward and hopefully we can be talking about 600 one day.”
Do you approach Texas differently than other mile-and-a-half racetracks?
“Texas is a really fast mile-and-a-half racetrack. Charlotte has been fast the last few years and Texas has always kind of been that way. The asphalt is getting a little bit older but, for as old as the asphalt is, it’s still really fast for a few laps and it’s still kind of a pain, sometimes, because it is so aero-dependent that when you do run the bottom it’s hard to pass. You’ve got to be able to move around a little bit and run the middle, run the top and show some ability to go all over the racetrack. We’re getting closer each and every time, it feels like. Sometimes not so much – you kind of go forward and then you go backward and then you kind of come back forward some. Hopefully, Texas will be good to us this time around, also, and we can get a win with our Interstate Batteries Camry like at Fontana.”
How fast of a racetrack is Texas Motor Speedway?
“It is a fast racetrack. Texas was really hard for me at the beginning with the Cup cars for some reason. I took to it right off the bat in the Nationwide stuff. We’ve kind of correlated some of that information back and forth and, having the cars from Jason Ratcliff (former Nationwide Series crew chief and current crew chief of the No. 20 Sprint Cup team for JGR) and from Dave Rogers (Busch’s Sprint Cup crew chief) being as good as they’ve been, we’ve been really fast there. And now that Jason is on the Cup side with Matt (Kenseth), I’m hoping they can bring back a little of that magic that helped us win five in a row there in the Nationwide car. It’s a fun place. It’s really challenging because of the flatness of the corners, getting into the corners, and then they’re so banked through the turns, and then the exits of the corners, they kind of fall off real quickly. That was always really weird for me to try to figure out because the lateral grip seems to go away so fast on the exit of the turns. You kind of want to be straight by that point. It’s an interesting facility. Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta all might look exactly the same, but they drive nothing alike. It keeps you on your toes.”
What would a Sprint Cup win at Texas mean to you?
“That’s something we want to do – I want to do – before I’m done. Hopefully, I have a long time before I get there. It would be nice to win there at Texas. It would mean a lot to see Norm’s (Miller) face in victory lane if we could pull it off. It meant a lot to get him to victory lane in the Truck Series there, but to win a Sprint Cup race there for him would be a huge deal.”
Kyle Busch: 300
At just 27 years of age, it’s difficult to believe Kyle Busch is considered by many to be a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran.
But as the Sprint Cup competitors head to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth this Saturday night for the NRA 500, the driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) is showing veteran-like numbers to prove it, especially since the Texas start will be his 300th in NASCAR’s top series.
Along with his number of starts, the number in the career wins column also serves to belie Busch’s age. His 25th Sprint Cup win three weekends ago at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. – in Interstate Batteries colors, no less – ties him with JGR teammate Matt Kenseth, along with Jim Paschal and Joe Weatherly, for 24th in all-time Sprint Cup victories.
Also with the Fontana win, Busch became just the third driver to score 25 victories in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series (25 Sprint Cup, 54 Nationwide). Mark Martin (40 Sprint Cup, 49 Nationwide) and Kenseth (25 Sprint Cup, 26 Nationwide) are the only other drivers to do so. Interestingly enough, Kenseth became the second driver to do so with his win three weeks ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In Busch’s 299 previous starts, he’s also has notched an impressive 97 top-five finishes and 144 top-10s. Not too shabby for just 300 career starts.
But despite all of those landmark finishes, Busch no doubt has his sights set on yet another elusive milestone Saturday night – a Sprint Cup win at Texas, situated right in the backyard of Dallas-based Interstate Batteries.
Interstate Batteries dealers and distributors across the country know if there’s anyone who can finally get that long-awaited Sprint Cup win in the Lone Star State, its Busch.
He reeled off an incredible string of five consecutive Nationwide Series wins at Texas from April 2008 to April 2010, and has come close to the elusive first Sprint Cup win in recent years there as he has posted five top-fives and six top-10s at the 1.5-mile oval, which include a tie for his career best of third there last November.
The Interstate Batteries driver also arrives in Texas fresh off his fourth top-five finish in a row Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, a finish that vaulted him to fourth in the Sprint Cup standings.
So, as Busch heads to Texas for his 300th Sprint Cup start, he’ll hope to use that nice, round numeral to grab a number one, which would be the first win at the “Great American Speedway” for himself and hometown sponsor Interstate Batteries.
From Matt Kenseth
“Texas is one of my favorite places to race at, and historically, we’ve had a lot of success there in the past so I’m looking forward to my first race there with JGR and this new 2013 Toyota Camry. I’m looking for to getting on the track this week and I think that the extra day of testing will help us to try out a few things as we prepare for Saturday night’s race. Texas is a track where you can run either the high or low line, and it’s a pretty fast track, so I’m looking forward to a great weekend there.”
From Jason Ratcliffe, Crew Chief
“Texas is one of the fastest tracks that we go to on the circuit, which typically you don’t always think about, but the entry speeds are so fast there. With it being a Saturday night race, I think it’s going to be one of the faster more action-packed races so far this year. For our No. 20 team, hopefully we can take what we had at Vegas and be successful this weekend at Texas. We have testing on Thursday so we’re looking forward to building upon our intermediate program which we’ve been pleased with so far this year.”
No. 20 Dollar General Toyota News & Notes:
- TEXAS BY THE NUMBERS: Kenseth is the top active driver in the Sprint Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway with the best average finish (8.3), the most laps led (772), most top five (12) and top-ten (15) finishes. Kenseth has completed 6,973 of 7,025 (99.3 percent) career laps at Texas in the Sprint Cup Series and has won twice at the 1.5-mile track (April 2002 and 2011).
- DG TEAMS SHOW SUPPORT FOR AUTISM AWARENESS: For the month of April, Dollar General and Joe Gibbs Racing will recognize National Autism Awareness Month by sporting the Autism Speaks blue puzzle piece logo on the c-posts of their Dollar General Toyotas. In their efforts to raise awareness, Dollar General is offering customers the opportunity to make donations to Autism Speaks during store check-out throughout the month of April.
- THIS WEEK ON THE NO. 20 DOLLAR GENERAL TOYOTA: Dollar General vendor partners Hefty, Clorox, Vidal Sassoon, Angel Soft and Betty Crocker will be featured on Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota Camry this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
- RACE INFO: The NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (1.5-mile) begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 13. The race will be broadcast live on FOX, Sirius XM Channel 90 and PRN Radio.