Charlotte and Pink
Sprint Cup Series
From Denny Hamlin
How can you turn the consistency the team has shown at Charlotte into your first career win at the track?
“Charlotte has been one of our more consistent tracks over the past couple years. We have been fortunate to bring fast cars there and get good qualifying positions to try to stay up front in the races. We need that again on Saturday night. Charlotte is going to be fast and fun under the lights, and hopefully we have a car that can compete for the win when it gets down to the end.”
No. 11 FedEx Express Notes
Charlotte Preview: The Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s 500-mile event on the 1.5-mile oval. Hamlin is making his 17th career Cup Series start at Charlotte on Saturday, and has posted nine career top-10 finishes in 16 events at the track, including six-straight top-10 finishes in the last six Charlotte races. Earlier this year, Hamlin set the track qualifying record when he qualified on the pole for May’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, a race that he led six laps in before a fourth place finish.
Kansas Recap: Denny Hamlin piloted the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota to a 23rd place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway. Starting the day in the 10th position and reaching as high as second place, pit strategy and caution flags down the stretch did not go in the FedEx team’s favor in a race that featured 15 yellow flags. Kevin Harvick claimed the checkered flag after starting the day on the pole. Hamlin worked the FedEx car to fourth place by lap 90 of 267 when the car’s handling started to loosen. Wedge and track bar adjustments on the subsequent two pit stops helped keep the No. 11 FedEx machine running in the top-10. A caution flag on lap 155 brought Hamlin to pit lane for four tires and fuel. Much of the field made the decision to stay out, leaving the FedEx team in 26th place when green flag racing returned. Fifteen laps later, the FedEx team was able to reap the benefits of the early pit stop. As the remaining cars pitted under caution, Hamlin kept the No. 11 car on the track and moved into second place behind Logano. Despite a tightening race car, Hamlin maintained a top-10 position until being forced to pit under caution on lap 217. Taking four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment, the No. 11 returned to the pack having fallen to 31st place. Needing the race to stay green until stops cycled through, the caution came out once again with Hamlin one lap down.
Kyle Busch Quotes
What are the challenges of racing at Charlotte?
“I think the biggest challenge about Charlotte is how much the track changes from practice. You practice all during the day and then you go into night racing. You’ve got to know what kind of adjustments to make to your car and how well you can race at night. Typically, you go back to your night notes. For us, we’ve run well there in the past and like going there. It’s a fun place to race and adds to the excitement of spending some time at home.”
You’ve said in the past that Charlotte is your favorite track. Is there any particular reason why?
“Charlotte is my favorite racetrack for a lot of reasons. Just growing up watching races on TV, I loved watching the All-Star Race under the lights and the 600 with all the sparks flying and all the guys going after hard-fought, hard-racing wins. The Nationwide Series has been good to me there. The Truck Series has been pretty good to me there, too. But a Cup Series win has eluded me there. We’re definitely getting closer than I was back when I first started racing at Charlotte. I think I have something like 10 top-10 finishes in my last 12 races going into this weekend, so I hope my luck is turning around a bit and I can finally get that Sprint Cup win there with our M&M’s Camry. We’ve been very close there plenty of times over the last several years.”
You’ve won at 17 different racetracks but you badly want to win at Charlotte, someday. Would you consider winning the October race at Charlotte to also be a feather in your cap?
“Winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway, since it is my favorite track, would be really special since I’ve been able to win there in other series and have been close a lot in the Cup car. It seems like the month of May at Charlotte just hasn’t liked me too much. We got to win in the Truck Series and the Nationwide Series races there in the spring, so I’m hoping we can change that this weekend and get a fall Sprint Cup win. There are plenty of other tracks we need to win at, too, but there’s no doubt it would be big.”
After a tough weekend in Kansas, how do you approach the final six races of the season?
“We’ll just have to work hard. We just have to keep doing what we’ve done to get us to this point all year long and that’s been consistency. And every other track except Kansas seems to be able to bode well for us, so we’ll see what happens and, if it doesn’t happen, doesn’t happen. This team isn’t going to give up, by any means. We’ll try to work hard and see what falls our way and if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. But there’s still a lot of racing to be done with our M&M’s Camry.”
Do you enjoy the night race at Charlotte?
“Charlotte is always fun because it’s cool for us. It’s my favorite track, but it’s cool for a lot of teams because it’s kind of – quote-unquote – close to home. I like going there. It makes things interesting with the night race. Practicing during the day and racing at night and the cooler temperatures and everything. You’ve got to put your best foot forward and work as hard as you can.”
What’s the biggest difference from the spring race to the fall race at Charlotte?
“It’s a little bit warmer in the spring and summer months – in May versus where we are now in October. It’s still one of those neat facilities we get to go to two or three times in the year, if you count the All-Star race. I like going there. It’s close to home for everybody, so it’s not too far out of bed.”
Kyle Busch: Filling Out the Resume
With 12 combined wins between the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch has spent plenty of time in victory lane at the 1.5-mile oval in the heart of NASCAR country.
But the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) would like nothing more than to highlight his resume with his first Charlotte Sprint Cup win during Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at the racetrack Busch calls his favorite on the circuit.
Despite falling just short of earning his first Charlotte Sprint Cup victory twice in the last three seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success on the 1.5-mile oval known as the “Beast of the Southeast” during his 19 previous Sprint Cup starts there.
He’s riding a streak of 11 top-10 finishes in the last 13 points-paying races there dating back to October 2006. In addition to solid Sprint Cup finishes, Busch has captured seven NASCAR Nationwide Series wins (May 2004, 2005 and 2008, October 2008 and 2009, May 2010, and May 2013) and five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins (2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2013).
Coming off a tough outing Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City – statistically one of his worse racetracks – the Las Vegas native heads to one of his strongest tracks in hopes of regaining some ground in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship battle, where he sits fifth in the standings, 35 points behind points-leader and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth.
Busch finally appeared headed for his breakthrough Sprint Cup win at Charlotte in the October 2010 and 2011 races there. In 2010, he led a race-high 217 laps but had to settle for a second-place finish behind Jamie McMurray. Then, the following year, he looked to be the class of the field once more but, after leading a race-high 111 laps, Busch was forced to settle for another second-place finish, this time behind Kenseth. He followed that up with a solid fifth-place finish in this race one year ago.
So, with a strong record at Charlotte over his nine plus seasons on the Sprint Cup circuit, Busch and his M&M’s team are looking to add a long-awaited win in the NASCAR mecca of Charlotte to his growing resume and are determined to keep fighting in a 2013 championship battle that still has a long way to go.
From Matt Kenseth
“I love racing at Charlotte because it’s a great race track and I’ve had some success there in the past. With it being a 1.5-mile track, those are the types of tracks that typically we’ve run decent at, so hopefully we can have a good run Saturday night, stay up front, and stay in the running for the Chase. We’re running a pink No. 20 Toyota this weekend thanks to all the wonderful work Dollar General does to help support breast cancer awareness including their sponsorship of the Dollar General 300 on Friday night. I’m looking forward to this weekend’s race and hope to get a solid run in.”
From Jason Ratcliffe, Crew Chief
“I was really happy with the first race we had at Charlotte back in May. We led a lot of laps, Matt (Kenseth) felt good about the car, and although we got caught up in a late-race deal there and damaged the car, overall we left that race feeling good about everything. We weren’t too happy with the finish we ended up with, but I feel that Charlotte is another track that our team is looking forward to getting back to. Charlotte is pretty sensitive to weather conditions, but I don’t foresee it being too different from the May race in regards to how it affects our race car this weekend.”
No. 20 Dollar General Toyota News & Notes:
- DRIVERS SUPPORT LOCAL READING EFFORTS: Earlier this fall, Dollar General’s Literacy Foundation partnered with Unilever to launch the “Reading Puts You on the Track to Victory” program in three Charlotte-area school districts. More than 6,000 students from 28 schools participated in this year’s program, reading more than 2.8 million minutes. Trackers recorded reading minutes for children in Kindergarten through 5th grade. The kindergarten class that logged the most minutes received a special classroom appearance from Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers. This week, the two drivers will make their visit to the winning school, Ashley Park Elementary, and read their favorite childhood books.
- KENSETH BY THE NUMBERS: In 28 Sprint Cup Series career starts at Charlotte, Matt Kenseth has an average finish of 14.2, has completed 9,436 of 9,986 (94.5 percent) career laps, and has led for a total of 567 laps. Kenseth has earned two wins, seven top-five, and 14 top-10 finishes at the 1.5-mile track.
- THIS WEEK ON THE NO. 20 DOLLAR GENERAL TOYOTA: Dollar General vendor partners Pringles, First Quality, Hanes, Arrid, Glad, Coca-Cola, Listerine, Bounty and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups will be featured on the pink No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway..
- RACE INFO: The Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (1.5-mile) begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, October 12th. The race will be broadcast live on ABC, Sirius XM Channel 90 and PRN Radio.