Toyota Racing Post-Qualifying Quotes Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) Phoenix Raceway – November 10, 2017
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 2nd
How was your lap?
“It was just short of great. It was close – second week in a row second, but we're knocking on the door. We're fast. We're doing everything we need to do to put pressure on the other guys and try to get a win. Our car is obviously fast enough, just got to tune it in tomorrow and get this thing going for 500K or something like that.”
Does Brad Keselowski starting 16th change your strategy at all?
"It doesn't alter it much. I didn't think they were going to qualify that great, but they typically race pretty well here. I'm not going to count on anything – not until we get to the end of the first stage and I see where we're at. I'm confident that starting right there, we should probably be up front all day."
What did you do down in the dogleg?
"Just shorter distance is all I tried to accomplish there. I thought it was a little bit better for sure, but it also gave me a bad angle into Turn 3, which was kind of hard to estimate kind of where I needed to be on speed and also I trashed my tires. I think it was a net gain. Obviously, it was faster than what we ran in any of the other sessions. It's something we wanted to save for the last round. We did and it just was barely not enough."
Are you worried about Chase Elliott starting behind you?
"Was I worried last weekend? No and I'm not worried this weekend. No, I'm not worried. Everyone up front is professionals and we all have one job to do and that's to win. Our objective is the same objective as his – it's to go out there and win on Sunday. You really can't worry about other guys. If you've got that in front of you and you're thinking about that, your chances of winning are slim to none."
Do you think there's a big difference weather condition wise or grip wise with the late qualifying session?
"A little bit. I mean, the biggest problem I had in the first session was the sunlight. I couldn't see getting into Turn 1, so I had to run a little bit more conservative lap. But other than that, once we got to the second round, the frontstretch was all shaded and we could kind of see where we were at. I messed up my second lap on Round 2 and only got one in, which was not what I was planning on, but somehow we kind of made it work. The conditions didn't change that much. If you look at the lap times, the track maybe gained a slight amount of grip by going tonight for the final round, but I think the wear on the tires meant more."
Do you have to be a little bit more aware of Ryan Blaney with what he did today?
"Yeah, for sure. We know that we have to beat him (Ryan Blaney) heads up essentially through the stages and the finish. But you know, I think that you kind of consider everyone, but you've got to look at the person who's in front of you first. I definitely won't be looking behind until that moment comes where that person is overtaking me, whether it be maybe in the first stage or something, if Ryan gains more points, then now he's in front of me so I'll be looking to him, but right now it's about looking forward."
With two practices tomorrow, why did you do so many laps in race trim today?
"A 9:00 a.m. practice was the biggest reason. Just the temperatures of the racetrack won't be where we're at in race trim until happy hour, so we might as well use the tires today when we were going to be on the track at about the same time as the start of the race, and the trucks had run two practices before. Us with the same tire, so the track was identical to where we were going to be for the race."
Were you surprised nobody else kind of did that?
"I didn't notice. Did anyone else? No? Um, yeah, I was a little surprised."
Did you guys discuss having practices when it's more relevant to the actual race in the last Drivers Council meeting?
"Well, I think it wasn't necessarily conversations about that as much as it was the enhanced weekends themselves, where I think the overwhelming majority thought that having practices before and after races like we had say at Martinsville was very, very relevant to race conditions. You know, I think from a TV standpoint, ratings are better when we qualify on Saturday and Sundays, so, I mean, that's a telltale sign right there that that's what we need to be doing. So I think that it was not only a validation through the Fan Fest, the enhanced weekends being something that's great for the fans, but it's also good for the teams. It's good for the drivers. It's good for everyone that's in the sport. And it also gives these fans a lot to watch on Saturday instead of just the race."
Any idea on what would enhance the racing next year?
"It's tough to say what will enhance the racing. I thought that the stages have done a phenomenal job mixing up the strategy, having more lap leaders, things like that. If it wasn't for (Martin) Truex (Jr.), the racing would be great. But really, I think that it's really given us an opportunity to raise the intensity for all 400 or 500 miles. I've never – when you get to a point now where I guarantee you 50 laps in last year and you're letting guys go because, hey, I'll get them after we make a pit stop or something, but now it's like you're 25 laps away from the end of a stage, so you have to press harder. It makes you have to be on your toes for the entire race. It's not just sitting around waiting until the end. I think the superspeedways is probably where it made the racing the best from the green flag to the checkered."
MARTIN TRUEX JR, No. 78 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Starting Position: 5th
How was your car in qualifying?
“It was pretty good. We really tried today to qualify better here. The last couple times, we’ve been fast in practice and not qualified so well. Today, we were fast in practice again and the first two rounds weren’t looking like we were going to qualify so well and so picking up to fifth, I was happy with that. Just little bit too loose the last round to really get after it.”
ERIK JONES, No. 77 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Furniture Row Racing
Starting Position: 11th
What did you mean when you indicated things ‘seemed backwards’ in qualifying?
“Just the things I used to do here to make speed didn’t seem to work this time. Just have to figure that out and figure out what we need to do to go faster. We’ll keep working on the car with our team and the TRD guys and keep looking at stuff and see what we can do to improve for tomorrow.”
TOYOTA STARTING POSITIONS
1st, Ryan Blaney*
2nd, DENNY HAMLIN
3rd, Kyle Larson*
4th, Chase Elliott*
5th, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
7th, MATT KENSETH
8th, KYLE BUSCH
10th, DANIEL SUÁREZ
11th, ERIK JONES
33rd, COREY LaJOIE
36th, DAVID STARR
RIS NASCAR Editor. Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.