Kyle Busch led Joe Gibbs Racing with another strong performance in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Busch dominated much of the day and came away with a third-place finish, while a late penalty left Joey Logano with a 25th-place finish and an engine issue ended Denny Hamlin’s day early in the 39th position.
Busch started the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota in the eighth position and didn’t wait long to show the confidence that he had in his Camry as he shot up into third on the very first lap. Not long thereafter Busch would pass his teammate Hamlin for the top spot and the day would largely belong to the green and white Interstate Batteries car from that point forward. Busch and the 18 team put together an amazing weekend after contact with the wall in a Friday practice session forced the crew to pull out the backup car for qualifying and the race. The setback didn’t deter the team however as they proved strong throughout the day in an effort to give JGR its first ever Sprint Cup victory at the 2-mile track. A late caution forced a major decision by the team on whether or not to relinquish the lead and come down pit road for a final time with 11 laps remaining. Crew chief Dave Rogers and Busch made the call to remain on the track as did the six cars behind him. Busch managed to hold off Jimmie Johnson on the restart, but Johnson was able to come back and get around him with three laps to go. As the two battled, Kevin Harvick took advantage and managed to slide around both for the race win, while Busch and the Interstate Batteries team had to settle for a third-place finish. Busch would lead a race-high five times for 151 laps.
After a strong qualifying effort on Friday, Joey Logano woke up Sunday morning looking forward to starting his No. 20 Home Depot Toyota from the third position, but an engine change prior to the start of the race sent him to the back of the field under NASCAR rules. Logano was able to make up several positions early in the race and then continued his assent up through field as the laps remaining dwindled. He would have his Home Depot Camry up to the 15th position when a late caution flag sent those outside the top seven down pit road for a fresh set of tires. With just 10 laps remaining Logano was hoping to gain several positions on the day’s final restart to vault his No. 20 Toyota into the top ten. Unfortunately his day would end once again in frustration when he was assessed a pass-through penalty for passing prior to the start/finish line on the day’s final restart. The result left him at the back of the lead lap cars and a disappointing 25th-place finish.
Unfortunately the frustration also extended to his teammate Hamlin and his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota team. Hamlin started in the second position following a superb qualifying effort on Friday and managed to lead early for 15 laps. Trouble began however shortly after the midpoint of the race when Hamlin began to quickly drop back in the field and radioed in to crew chief Mike Ford that he felt there was a problem with the engine or electrical system. Although Hamlin managed to stay on the track until a caution flag came out, he would ultimately have to take the car behind the wall and into the garage where it was determined his day would be over. Hamlin would finish 39th.
Kevin Harvick would win the race, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Ryan Newman to round out the top-five. There were four cautions for a total of 16 laps and 18 lead changes among 10 different drivers over the course of the 200-lap race.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the East Coast next week with the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 from Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 3. The race will begin at 1 PM ET with live, high-definition coverage provided by FOX beginning with its pre-race show at 12:30 PM ET. The race will also be broadcast live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio Channel 128.
All three Joe Gibbs Racing entries will start from inside the top ten when the green flag waves to start the Auto Club 400 Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA.
The rains fell early today in Fontana, CA, but when officials were finally able to get the track dry it would be Denny Hamlin leading JGR’s efforts by qualifying his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota in the second position. Hamlin posted a lap of 39.073 seconds and just narrowly missed the top spot.
“It’s been a good day,” said Hamlin. “Focusing on qualifying and things like that, I’ve really never worked so hard to work on just one lap before as much as I have this week. I’m trying to get better. Last week we had issues at Bristol and that was because we qualified bad. We can’t put ourselves in the middle of the pack every weekend. We’re trying to slowly work to get better at qualifying and I felt like I’m taking steps to do that.”
Meanwhile Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, was just behind his teammate with an impressive lap of 39.102 seconds to earn the third position.
“It was more surprising than anything else,” Logano said of his qualifying lap. “I didn’t think it was that great of a lap. I had a terrible time getting up to speed coming to the green. Thought that kind of set me up for a bad lap. I had a better (turns) one and two than I had in practice — so I’m excited about that. It was good. I’m excited about it.”
Kyle Busch managed an impressive effort despite an accident in the day’s only and abbreviated practice session that forced the team to bring out the backup car. Busch, who had hit a wet spot on the track that would result in contact with the wall, would earn the ninth position for the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota with a lap of 39.241 seconds.
“I just can’t say enough about these guys on this Interstate Batteries Camry this weekend so far,” said Busch. “Just today, I mean we waited (the rain) out. We had the car all ready to go and all of the sudden the first lap out I decided the guys didn’t have enough work today. So, we had to come in and get the backup out and we went through everything trying to make sure we had a good enough car just to get a lap on it at least in practice. Guys did a great job there and hustled along pretty well. Made some changes there for qualifying and got it pretty close to where we needed it. That’s good enough. That’s solid enough that we’ll take that and wherever it winds up and we can race them from there on Sunday.”
Juan Pablo Montoya of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing captured the pole with a lap of 38.992.
Denny Hamlin Quotes
Does the new points system magnify a bad day?
“I think in the long run, consistency is what’s going to pay more than ever for this points system. If you finish (two races) in the high-teens, that’s as good as a win and a 40th-place finish. It’s a little different, for sure. It pays to be consistent, which we feel like we’re a pretty consistent race team throughout the year. Then, at the end of the season when we feel like we need to turn it up, then we feel like we can. It does make you a little scared of those bottom finishes because it’s tough to look at your points day and say you go into a weekend with 400 points and you’ve just spent three days at a race track and you come out three points better than what you started. You might as well have just stayed home. It’s a hard hit when you only get a few points, especially single digits.”
Do you enjoy racing at Auto Club Speedway?
“We haven’t had a ton of success at California, but I like racing there. We have had some bad luck with tires or getting caught in wrecks, and I’m still looking for that first win. It’s big and wide and fast, and a lot of fun for the drivers. It’s a place where you can move around and change your line to try to get your car working the best. You need a lot of horsepower because the straightaways are long, and that place is tough on motors. It’s a little easier now that this race is 400 miles. I’m happy that they shortened it. Hopefully we’ll have a good car for practice and just fine-tune on it for the race.”
Bristol Recap: Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team endured a long day Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway, as early contact disrupted the rear alignment of the #11 FedEx Toyota and resulted in a 33rd place finish. A group of cars just in front of Hamlin made contact on Lap 29, and Hamlin spun trying to avoid the wreck, but was hit from behind in the left-rear. What looked like cosmetic damage turned out to be much more severe, as it made the car a handful to drive for the remainder of the 500-lap event. With the finish, Hamlin dropped nine spots to 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, 44 points behind leader Kurt Busch after four of 36 events.
Going Back to Cali: Hamlin is making his 11th career Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) on Sunday in the #11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry. In 10 previous trips to the two-mile speedway in Fontana, Calif., the 30-year-old driver has one top-five and four top-10 results, including a third-place finish in the fall 2008 event. This year marks the first since 2003 that the track is only hosting one Cup Series race. Hamlin finished 29th and eighth in the two events at ACS in 2010. Fuel strategy worked to near-perfection in the spring race last year, but two cut tires in the race’s final 30 laps resulted in the #11 Toyota finishing two laps down to the leaders. Hamlin rebounded in the fall trip to the track, as Hamlin charged from a 34th-place starting position to finish eighth and stay in the Chase hunt. Hamlin started on the pole in the fall 2009 race at Auto Club and was leading the field to the green flag on a lap 190 restart when contact with Juan Pablo Montoya sent Hamlin spinning through the infield grass to make contact with the pit wall. Hamlin has a pair of sixth-place runs at the track — in the fall of 2006 and spring of 2009. In total, Hamlin has led 56 laps with an average finish of 17.2 at Auto Club Speedway.
Kyle Busch Quotes
With a Sprint Cup win at Bristol last weekend under your belt, and with the season-long championship your primary goal, are you more concerned about points or wins as you go forward?
“I think that racing to your potential on most days will get you a win, so you don’t really have to worry about that. It seems like we’re a lot better at a couple of racetracks than maybe some others that we’re working on and getting better at, and one of those coming up is California this weekend. We’re always like a fifth- to ninth-place car. Hopefully, we can get a little bit better than that at California. Michigan is another one. Some of those places where we struggle at a little bit, we’d like to get better, particularly a couple of racetracks in the Chase. Every time we unload, we’re racing for the win. If we can gather the wins up, the points will take care of themselves. If we can finish consistently, points will take care of themselves. It’s a matter of keeping track of your bad days. Our only bad day so far has been due to an engine failure. I have the utmost respect for Mark (Cronquist, JGR head engine builder) and what his guys are doing, what those guys are doing in the engine shop. Vegas is hopefully behind us, now, and we can continue on our good run of strong finishes.”
Do you enjoy racing at California?
“I like California. It’s fun. It’s really wide and it’s kind of flatter than Michigan, so it’s a little harder to kind of get a hold of, but you can really spread out. We’ve been seeing a lot of guys all the way down at the white line. We saw guys all the way up at the wall. It always seems to be a really good race, there. It’s a really fun racetrack. It’s widened out and it’s become where you can race all over it and, with the race being as long as it is, you need to take a lot of time working through traffic and being able to have a good car and all that. It’s the same thing every week. California is just another one of those racetracks that seems to suit Jimmie (Johnson) really, really well. He’s been in contention to win the past seven races there, I think, and he’s probably won four of them. That’s another place we know he’ll be fast. Again, we just hope for a solid day and that our efforts will put us in a good enough position. And if they don’t, then we weren’t good enough.”
Do you think the key for your championship run this year is racing with a little more savvy, like we’ve seen you do at the first four races this year?
“I guess so. We need to keep it going all year long. That’s the most important thing. When it gets hot and slick in the summertime, you get more frustrated that you’re not going forward or you’re kind of stuck running 15th somewhere. Those are the days that savvy really needs to show versus the days you’re running up front, top-five. It’s a little easier. We just keep working on the things that we can do, what we can do better to improve our program and to make it to where we can run competitive top-fives week in and week out. Be a championship contender in order to bring home not only the hardware but the points that will get us into the Chase, then the final stretch to Homestead.”
Are you looking forward to running the Interstate Batteries ‘Hybrid’ Camry scheme this weekend at California?
“I’d say it was pretty good luck out in Phoenix for the Nationwide race, so I hope that continues this weekend. I was calling it my ‘Hybrid’ Camry with the Interstate battery coming out of the hood. It’s always great to have Interstate Batteries a part of our program. Just the relationship with Norm (Miller, Interstate Chairman) means a lot to myself, Samantha (wife), the Gibbs family, and everyone at JGR. We’ve come close to getting them a win at California, so I’m hoping this is the weekend for it.”
How has Auto Club Speedway changed over the last few years, going from a new track to a place that has a lot more character and racing grooves?
“That place is tough. It’s really a hard racetrack to get ahold of, now, especially when it’s hot and the sun is out. There are two completely different types of racing when you run the top versus the bottom groove. You can run from the top to the bottom, but when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack. You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”
Kyle Busch Notes: ‘‘White-Hot’ and Heading West’
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 22, 2011) – Following his weekend sweep of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series races at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, there’s no driver more “white-hot” than Kyle Busch.
As the Sprint Cup Series heads back to the West Coast for round five of the season, Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), looks to keep his hot streak going in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
The talented 25-year-old will debut the Sprint Cup version of Interstate Batteries’ new “white hot” paint scheme to help celebrate the company’s 20-year partnership with JGR.
While Sunday’s race will be the first of six Sprint Cup races in 2011 for Dallas-based Interstate Batteries, the scheme has already visited victory lane after a dominating performance by Busch in the Nationwide Series Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 at Phoenix International Raceway last month. The No. 18 Toyota Camry is primarily white with green and black accents, including a distinctive lightning bolt design on the sides. But, perhaps the most talked-about aspect of the new livery is the front of the Camry, which features a stunning illustration of an “Outrageously Dependable” green-top Interstate Battery seemingly bursting out of the hood.
After leading all 200 laps en route to the Nationwide win at Phoenix, Busch dubbed his Interstate ride a “Hybrid” Camry, in reference to the battery emblazoned on the hood of his No. 18 Toyota. It’s a bold look to celebrate the anniversary of what was essentially a bold move 20 years ago by Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller.
In the summer of 1991, Joe Gibbs met with Miller in Dallas and pitched him on having Interstate Batteries be the first-ever sponsor for JGR, despite the fact he had no racecars, engines, employees or even a building. Miller was sold on the idea immediately and a highly successful relationship was born. Twenty years later, Interstate Batteries-sponsored JGR cars have now won the 1993 Daytona 500 (Dale Jarrett), the 2000 Brickyard 400 (Bobby Labonte), the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship (Labonte) and 24 Sprint Cup races (21 by Labonte, two by Jarrett, one by Busch).
Busch, of course, is determined to add to the Interstate Batteries’ 20-year legacy with his No. 18 JGR team, and it’s quite clear his sights are focused more than ever on adding another Sprint Cup title to JGR’s already impressive resume. It all continues this weekend in Southern California as Busch and his No. 18 teammates look to remain “white-hot.”
Joey Logano Quotes
Logano Quotes on Auto Club Speedway:
“There is a ton to think about during a race at Auto Club. It’s a pretty cool race track. There is so much room out there to race and you can draft down the straight-aways. It’s starting to wear out so it’s pretty bumpy. But the craziest thing about it by far is the restarts, a good restart is huge. When the flag goes in the air, people are four and five-wide. You can gain and lose five spots before you get through the first turn, not the first lap, but the first turn.”
Logano Quotes on the Season:
“It’s been tough this season. I know the results don’t show it, but I really believe we are running better now than we were last year. Every time I think the bad luck is out of the way, something happens. Last weekend we were down 150 horsepower then the wheel broke. But the good thing is the performance is there and we know what we are capable of doing. We are now to the point where we can’t afford to have another bad race or we will never get the points back. I think with how fast the cars have been we can still make it into the top 10 before Richmond.”
The Home Depot Team Notes of Interest
- Joey Logano is searching for that illusive first top-10 finish of the 2011 season and hopes to find it at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. this weekend. Auto Club Speedway has been one of Logano’s most consistent tracks on the circuit. He has four starts at the two-mile track and has completed all but one lap of competition. He has one top-five and two top-10 finishes and an average finishing position of 14th.
- About the last race: Logano and The Home Depot Team had another frustrating finish at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sunday. Logano consistently improved throughout the 500-lap race, but a right-front tire issue with less than 30 laps to go forced him down pit road under green-flag conditions. The blown tire dropped him from the top 10 to the 23rd position.
- The Home Depot Team is currently tied for 29th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings following the race at Bristol. The team has accumulated 74 points so far this season and sits 49 points out of the series top 10.
- Welcome aboard The Home Depot associates from store #405 from Glendale, Ariz. The store number will ride along with Logano this weekend for the 200-lap race.
- Logano will be competing in the Cup Series and Nationwide Series races this weekend. Before climbing behind the wheel of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota on Sunday, Logano will once again race the No. 20 Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series event on Saturday. Logano has one win, four top-five and five top-10 finishes in just five starts in the Nationwide Series at the Fontana, Calif.-based track.
- The No. 20 Home Depot Team is taking chassis #287 for Logano this weekend for the Auto Club 400. The team raced this chassis to a seventh-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October and to a fourth-place finish at Texas in November. The back-up chassis is chassis #284 which Logano drove last year at Auto Club Speedway to an 11th-place finish and at Phoenix International Raceway in November to third.
Brian Scott Quotes
Scott Quotes on the upcoming race at Auto Club Speedway:
“I’m really excited going to California. I feel like it’s one of my better tracks. If you look at last year that was the first place that we had a really strong run. It was the second race of the season and we ran second most of the race behind my now, current teammate of Joey Logano. We had a really good car. I like the place. Really pays off the high line. It’s a difficult line to run, but if you can run it then it pays off. I feel like I’ve got the high line figured out. I feel like I’ve got the race track figured out and I feel like I’m with a team now that has the equipment even more figured out. I think we can be a deadly combination at California.”
What are the benefits to having teammates in NNS that are only focused on wins?
“It’s been a tremendous benefit for me to have teammates like Kyle Busch and Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin – guys that are on the Cup side and going for the wins. How they are approaching practice and how they approach a race is different and more experienced. To see one, for myself what they’re doing and be able to talk to them after the runs. Two, for the team and for Kevin (Kidd, crew chief) to be able to communicate with their crew chiefs and know that if they were going for a championship then we probably wouldn’t do this, but we’re going to roll the dice. It allows different strategies to play out and it allows us to have better information, better data and everything for when we go back to race tracks a second time. We can see what risks worked, what risks they didn’t so then we can create a better game plan.”
How is the relationship with Kevin Kidd?
“Me and Kevin (Kidd, crew chief) are great. I feel like we’re on the same page. I don’t say anything bad behind his back — I don’t know what he says about me when I’m not around. I think we understand each other. I think that we have similar mentalities and I think that we both know what the goals and objectives are week by week. I think that’s all you can really ask for in a crew chief and driver relationship.”
Shore Lodge Team Notes
Brian Scott and the No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota team travel to Auto Club Speedway for this weekend’s Royal Purple 300 in what will be Scott’s fourth career start at the two-mile California track in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.
In three previous starts at Auto Club Speedway, Scott has one top-10 finish. He finished 10th during the spring race in 2010.
During his previous three starts at Auto Club, Scott has completed 454 of the 454 laps that have been run during those three races for a 100 percent lap completion rate.
Last Race: Scott earned a career-best 12th-place Bristol Motor Speedway finish last weekend in the Scotts EZ Seed 300. Scott started the race from the 13th position and avoided the multiple accidents that took place for his third finish of 14th or better in the last three Nationwide Series races.
Scott’s 12th-place finish at Bristol moved him up a position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver point standings to 10th place. He is a mere 17 points out of third place and 35 points behind championship point leader Jason Leffler.
Chassis #119 is the car Scott will race this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. The car is a brand new chassis for Joe Gibbs Racing. The backup car for the race will once again be Chassis #106. This chassis has been the backup for all of the races in 2011 and is also new for this season. The car was used at the test in which Scott participated at the Walt Disney World Speedway in January.
Late Model Stock Car Event Scheduled for Thursday, April 28, Following the Blue Ox 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Race
Richmond, VA (March 22, 2011)—Richmond International Raceway and Chesterfield, VA native Denny Hamlin are joining forces to run the fourth annual Short Track Showdown to benefit the Denny Hamlin Foundation on Thursday night, April 28 at America’s Premiere Short Track. The event will feature more than eight NASCAR drivers and celebrities battling it out on the ¾-mile track with some of the best local Late Model Stock Car drivers.
Always trying to be on the cutting edge of technology, Richmond International Raceway brought Tuesday’s announcement to fans live on the track’s Facebook page. One of the first times a motorsports facility has delivered a major announcement live on the Internet, fans were even invited to submit questions for Hamlin and Fritz to answer.
“This is a great partnership with our hometown driver, Denny Hamlin,” said Richmond International Raceway President Doug Fritz. “We’re excited to be the new home of the Short Track Showdown and hope to help Denny grow this event into a premiere charity race.”
The addition of the Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway means the race weekend will now feature four events for race fans to enjoy. The charity race will be a one-day show, featuring practice and qualifying prior to the Blue Ox 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race. The Short Track Showdown will run immediately following the Blue Ox 100, making for an exciting Thursday at Richmond International Raceway.
“I’m so excited to have the opportunity to run our Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway,” said Hamlin. “The event has grown every year and we’ve been so fortunate to raise support through my foundation for some outstanding organizations. The competition will be intense with several Cup drivers signed on, as well as a few racing celebrities and of course several outstanding local short track drivers. It’s going to be a great night of racing with the opportunity to help a lot of people.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and other NASCAR celebrities currently scheduled to run in the Short Track Showdown include Denny, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Michael Waltrip, Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Hermie Sadler and Clay Campbell – Martinsville Speedway president.
Proceeds from the Short Track Showdown at Richmond International Raceway will benefit the Denny Hamlin Foundation, a 501 C (3) started to raise funds for individuals and families suffering from cystic fibrosis. The foundation supports organizations like The Children’s Hospital of Richmond, St. Jude’s Hospital and Victory Junction.
Tickets are available now for the excitement on Thursday, April 28th. All seats are general admission and $25. Children 12 and under are admitted free with a ticketed adult. Tickets include the Blue Ox 100 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race and Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown.
If you haven’t purchased your tickets for the Crown Royal Presents The Matthew & Daniel Hansen 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday, April 30th, now is the time. Tickets start at $45 and can be purchased online at www.rir.com or by calling 866-455-RACE (7223). Don’t miss the return of hometown favorite Denny Hamlin, defending series champion Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and all of your favorite stars of the Sprint Cup Series.
The weekend also includes the Friday, April 29th BUBBA burger 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race “under the lights.” Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne, Virginia native Elliott Sadler and the full-time Nationwide Series drivers will mix it up with Sprint Cup drivers running double-duty. Tickets start at $30 in advance, and children 12 and under are admitted free with a ticketed adult in general admission. For tickets and information, log on to www.rir.com or call 866-455-RACE (7223).
About Richmond International Raceway:
Richmond International Raceway, known as America’s Premier Short Track, offers exciting night racing action and a commitment to the fan experience. One of the most popular facilities among drivers and fans in all of motorsports, Richmond International Raceway annually hosts all of its major events—two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, two NASCAR Nationwide Series events and one NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race—under the lights on its ¾-mile D-Shaped oval. The unique layout consistently produces the thrill of side-by-side racing, coupled with high enough speeds for a superspeedway feel. Combined with first-class amenities (including the state-of-the-art Video Scoring Tower) and a focus on the fans, guests at Richmond International Raceway can expect to experience what “Racing Perfection” truly is. For tickets to events at Richmond International Raceway, call 866-455-RACE or visit www.rir.com online.Find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RIRInsider.
About the Denny Hamlin Foundation:
The Denny Hamlin Foundation was created by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Denny Hamlin to aid in raising awareness and funding for Cystic Fibrosis research and treatment, as well as to support other not for profit corporations that focus on aiding children with debilitating illnesses. You can find the Denny Hamlin Foundation online at www.dennyhamlinfoundation.org and on Facebook athttp://www.facebook.com/dennyhamlinfoundation.