Toyota NASCAR Tidbits – March 4 – 10, 2013Press Release
DRIVING IN THE DESERT: Camry driver Denny Hamlin (third) was the first Toyota driver to the finish line in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR). Hamlin dove to the apron on the final lap in an attempt to take second, but was edged out at the checkered flag by Jimmie Johnson for the position. Clint Bowyer (sixth) and Matt Kenseth (seventh) earned their first top-10 results of 2013 at the one-mile track.
NOTABLE NATIONWIDE NUMBERS: The Toyota Camry captured its 75th NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) victory in Saturday’s race at PIR where Kyle Busch claimed the win. Busch, who has totaled 41 of Toyota’s 75 NNS triumphs, led 142 laps (of 200) after starting the race from the pole and overcame a pit road penalty for the win. Elliott Sadler (fifth) and Kenseth (eighth) also recorded top-10 results at the Arizona oval.
HOMETOWN HERO: Camry Driver Busch will return to his hometown as NASCAR moves to Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) this weekend for the third race of the 2013 NSCS season. Busch, a native of Las Vegas, grew up racing on the LVMS short track before advancing into regional and national racing series. The hometown hero became the first local to claim a NSCS win on the 1.5-mile oval in 2009. In nine NSCS races at LVMS, the 27-year-old driver has one win (2009), two poles (2008 and 2009), three top-five finishes and four top-10 results.
MARTIN MADE HIS MARK: Camry driver Mark Martin is no stranger to LVMS, where the 54-year-old veteran took the checkered flag in the track’s inaugural NSCS race in 1998. At Las Vegas, Martin is tied for the most NSCS starts (15) and has the most top-five finishes (six) and top-10 results (10) on the tri-oval speedway. Martin has started the 2013 season with a third-place result in Daytona and won the pole position at Phoenix where he led 75 laps, but finished 21st.
WINNING WAYS: Toyota entered the 2013 season seeking milestones in all three NASCAR national touring series — and the manufacturer claimed its 100th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) victory and 75th NNS win in the season’s first two race weekends. Toyota’s next checkered flag in the NSCS will mark 50 Cup Series wins for the manufacturer. Toyota first entered NCWTS competition in 2004 with the Tundra, and joined the NSCS and NNS ranks with the Camry in 2007.
RENO GAS CAN MAN: Camry crew member Wes Evans is a native of nearby Reno, Nev., and played college football prior to his career in NASCAR. Evans, the gas man for Martin Truex Jr., played football at Arizona State University (ASU), where he was a tight end and defensive end during his years as a collegiate athlete (2005-2008). Evans graduated from ASU with a degree in marketing communications and also assists the Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) marketing department when not at the track. In 2003, Evans was a part of the Reno High School football team that won the 4A state high school championship.
NOTES, QUOTES & NUMBERS
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS): Through the first two races of 2013, Denny Hamlin is fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) point standings, trailing leader Jimmie Johnson by 18 points … Clint Bowyer (fifth) and Mark Martin (seventh) also rank in the top-10 … Toyota drivers have combined for two top-five results, four top-10 finishes and 201 laps led through two events … Matt Kenseth has two victories (2003 and 2004) and one pole position (2011) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) … Bobby Labonte has two pole positions (1999 and 2003) at LVMS.
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Will the test day at Las Vegas be beneficial? “Having a full day at Las Vegas will be a big benefit. It will give everyone a great opportunity to get their cars right and see what it’s like on a mile-and-a-half because really the closest thing I’ve run is the Darlington tire test, and everything seemed fine there. So, we’ll see how it goes. It looks like the first five races are all something different.”
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Kingsford Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing
Do you feel your team needs to improve at mile-and-a-half tracks? “Last year we spent a lot of time struggling at those tracks. Hopefully, the new car might fit our style. We might have improved in areas that I know we have improved in. When we get to the race track, we’ll know more. I think all the things we’ve done in the off-season are really going to be geared towards improving our performance.”
MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is your outlook heading to Las Vegas? “I’m looking forward to going to Vegas. After Daytona and Phoenix — I thought we had maybe not the best car, but one of the best cars. We didn’t get the finish again, but we had one of the best cars, so that’s really encouraging. I’m looking forward to going to Vegas. Hopefully build on that and get a little better finish.”
What are your goals in your first season with JGR? “My only goal right now is to win. I mean, you want to be a contender each and every week, but I think it’s important for us to win. I know you can’t force it and you never know if it’s going to happen or when it’s going to happen, but I think that’s my first goal is to try and go out and get a win right away.”
RODNEYCHILDERS, crew chief, No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How important is the Las Vegas test? “Truthfully, I think Las Vegas will be the most important test of the whole beginning of the year. With it being an intermediate track and a place that’s really fast like Las Vegas, the aero part becomes the biggest thing that you fight. I think everybody in the garage needs to learn a little bit about this new car and where the splitter needs to be compared to the race track. There will be a lot of different things going on with different teams on Thursday — just trying to figure it out and make big swings at it. Hopefully, we can unload fast and work on it from there. I think it’s going to be really important.”
How do you utilize a test immediately preceding a race? “When it’s at the race track that you’re going to race at on Sunday, it changes everything around because no matter if it’s a test day or not you’re thinking about, ‘What do I have to do to win on Sunday?’ We’ll definitely have some things to try. But, on the other hand, we’re going to be constantly trying to make the car better. It really depends on how you unload. If we unload really fast, that puts you up for trying more things. But, if you’re off a little bit, you’re just going to sit there and tune on it until Friday comes around and then hope you qualify good.”
NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS): After two races in 2013, Elliott Sadler is fourth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) point standings, trailing leader Sam Hornish Jr. by 10 points … Parker Kligerman (fifth) and Alex Bowman (10th) also rank in the top-10 …Camry drivers have totaled four top-five finishes, six top-10 results and led 255 laps … Kyle Busch’s win at PIR was his 52nd career NNS victory and his first Nationwide Series win since Sept. 2011 … Brian Vickers won the pole position in a Camry for the NNS race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) in 2008 … Former Camry driver Scott Speed was a pole winner at LVMS in 2009 … LVMS is one of six tracks on the 2013 schedule where the Camry has not visited victory lane in the NNS.
ELLIOTT SADLER, No. 11 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is it like working with a new team? “We’re still learning. We’re a work in progress between all the guys and Chris (Gayle, crew chief) and I. If we keep learning like this and keep making the car better as the race goes on, we’re going to be really, really tough as the year goes on.”
Do you enjoy racing at Las Vegas? “I really like that race track. We sat on the pole there last year, finished third, led a bunch of laps. It fits my driving style very well. I’m very anxious to get there in a Joe Gibbs Racing car and Mark Cronquist horsepower and being there for the first time in a Toyota will be pretty cool. These guys have always run good there on mile-and-a-halfs, so hopefully we can go there and be really good.”
ALEX BOWMAN, No. 99 Port of Tucson Toyota Camry, RAB Racing
Have you raced at Las Vegas and how do you prepare for a new track? “It will be my first time going there. Just race tapes and some people play iRacing and think that helps — I’m not quite sure if that helps or not, but we’ll see. I was pretty focused on Phoenix, so now I have to put my focus on there and see what I’m going to do to get ready.”
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS): After winning the season-opening race at Daytona, Johnny Sauter leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) standings with 47 points … Matt Crafton (eighth) and Todd Bodine (10th) also rank in the top-10 … Tundra drivers earned the win, two top-five finishes, three top-10 results and led 37 laps at Daytona … In the last 17 NCWTS races dating to 2012, Johnny Sauter has three wins, which is tied for the most in the series over that span … Tundra drivers have started the season with at least three consecutive victories in four of the last six seasons (2007-2009, 2011) …The NCWTS returns to action at Martinsville Speedway on April 6 after an extended break.
Source: Toyota Racing, Press Release
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