Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway was the first race of the NASCAR Playoffs with three Toyota Camry TRD drivers starting their march towards competing for this year’s championship. Two of those drivers – Denny Hamlin (second) and Christopher Bell (fifth) both earned top-five finishes while Bubba Wallace (ninth) also scored a top-10 finish as he is competing for the owner’s championship in the No. 45 Camry for 23XI Racing. Kyle Busch, who is also competing in this year’s Playoffs won the second stage of the race and led a total of 155 laps (of 367) before his engine expired with less than 30 laps remaining in the race. Fellow Toyota teammate, Martin Truex Jr. also led 48 laps of the race before also experiencing engine issues forcing an early end to his race.
Toyota Post-Race Recap
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Race 27 of 36 – 501.3 miles, 367 laps
TOYOTA FINISHING POSITIONS
1st, Erik Jones*
2nd, DENNY HAMLIN
3rd, Tyler Reddick*
4th, Joey Logano*
5th, CHRISTOPHER BELL
9th, BUBBA WALLACE
15th, TY GIBBS
31st, MARTIN TRUEX JR.
30th, KYLE BUSCH
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 2nd
Was there anything you could have done in the closing laps to get around Erik Jones?
“Not without contact. Last night in the Xfinity race, there was like two-and-a-half minutes of fall off in the last 15-lap run and I think it was about a second for us in a 15-lap run. The speeds are so fast and so much on-throttle time, it’s just an air game. Erik (Jones) just did a great job. I also have to thank Sport Clips, sorry I couldn’t run the Xfinity race yesterday. Always proud to always carry the Sport Clips colors here at Darlington. Just a great day for Erik and a great day for our team.”
Were you concerned when you saw the 19 and the 18 have engine issues in the closing laps?
“We can’t come in and change the engine and we’re not going to give up track position so there’s nothing we’re going to do about it to fix something even if it’s obvious anyway. That late in the race, I just looked at it and said it was a tough one for those guys obviously. It’s a bummer, but there’s nothing I’m going to change in the car so I just concentrate on doing the best I can as the driver.”
How much more did you need on the final run to try to catch Erik Jones?
“Just tried to get the wheels to slide or spin on entry. Tried to do everything I could to get the car to respond with the front, but just a lot tighter than what we had been all day. I think Kyle (Busch) said he had the same thing. Might have just been a track thing, but overall we weren’t great on short run, but obviously we were good on the long run. Just needed that thing to go green.”
How were your pit stops overall tonight?
“We had some good ones, we had some bad ones and then we had some good ones again at the end, which is where you need them. We got fortunate on the one cycle where it went long and we got a caution. It allowed us to gain some of that track position back. Just not enough, but congratulations to Erik Jones, that’s pretty awesome.”
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Yahoo Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 5th
How do you feel about your race overall tonight?
“Overall, a good points day, but just disappointed. Our Camrys were super-fast, but I don’t know, just whenever you have your teammates that are running one, two, three and you’re struggling to get up there and race with them, it’s disappointing. Overall, good day and it’s a good way to start this Playoff stretch and hopefully we can continue the momentum.”
Were you able to make passes during the race or was that challenging tonight?
“I don’t know if anybody could pass exceptional, but our teammates could make their way to the front so I’m disappointed with fifth just because of how strong our teammates were and we were always kind of back there always in that outside of the top-five range. Caught a couple bad breaks, but a couple good ones at the end and ended up fifth with some stage points. Overall a good day for the Yahoo Camry and we’ll try and build on this and continue the momentum into Kansas.”
How worried were you when you saw what happened to the 18 and 19 in the closing laps with both experiencing engine issues?
“It wasn’t ideal, that’s for sure. Especially after Richmond when we saw Ty Gibbs have an engine issue and then myself and Kyle (Busch) both had engine issues at Watkins Glen. It’s definitely on the back of our minds, but I have all the faith in the world that the guys at TRD will get it figured out and we’ll keep it rolling.”
BUBBA WALLACE, No. 45 Root Insurance Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
Finishing Position: 9th
How was your race today overall?
“All in all, a decent day for our Root Toyota Camry team. Just have to get better at calling the adjustments and getting on top of our balance to stay ahead of the curve. All in all, just proud to come out of here with a finish. Good car for us, just have to keep on trucking onto Kansas.”
TY GIBBS, No. 23 Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD, 23XI Racing
Finishing Position: 15th
How was your race car overall tonight?
“We were really fast when the sun was setting but needed to make some different adjustments to keep our Monster Energy Toyota Camry TRD fast into the night. The team did a good job, but we were just a little off tonight.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 30th
What happened in the closing laps of the race that ended your evening?
“Engine broke. Just unfortunate circumstances for us tonight. The guys did a great job and brought a really fast M&M’s Toyota Camry. Just real proud of the effort. All the stuff the guys have done and gone through – just all the news and everything that’s going on all year. They’ve dug in and never given up and continue. Just had a great car and don’t have anything to show for it. That’s what I really, really hate about it.”
How are you feeling right now?
“I don’t know. The sun will come up tomorrow.”
After such a dominant performance in the race, what happened that ended your night early?
“The engine broke. We were obviously leading a lot of laps and had a really fast car. Proud of the guys and their fight. The guys on pit road tonight were awesome. Had a lot of fun being up front, leading laps like that and show what we’re made of. I just hate that we can’t finish with the points we need.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 31st
What did you feel in the engine before your race was over?
“I lost power steering and the car started overheating real quick and losing power. Kicked some belts off or something. Thanks to all my guys and everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing), TRD, everybody at Bass Pro for supporting us all year. It’s been tough and this is another tough night for sure, but we’ll come back next week and fight again.”
How would you describe your emotions right now?
“Just mad. Upset, angry. We deserve better and no matter what we do this year it seems wrong. When we run good, stuff goes wrong and when we run bad, nothing happens. Just one of those years that we can’t get anything to go our way. It’s about the fifth time I should have won this race and I’ve only won it once so pretty pissed off.”