Toyota Racing – NCS COTA Post-Practice Quotes – 03.24.23

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were made available to media after practice at Circuit of the Americas on Friday: 


DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing  

How did the package handle for you out there?

“I thought it was good. I’m just trying to get better, being honest with you. I’m trying to gauge myself off of (Tyler) Reddick and things he does so differently. It’s kind of a style change that I’m trying to convert myself to do 18 years later.”

Is that something that you an idea about when he joined Toyota?

“He has a different approach for sure. At his sim this week, I kind of just set in on his session and watched him and tried to emulate it. I did – I was just a few seconds off.”


Is there a preferred lane on the choose?

“I’m not really sure to be honest with you. It’s interesting. I know there was a couple of people on social media that wanted the choose, but I don’t know why we have it here. It doesn’t make much sense, and I think we just kind of got pressured into it.”


Does consistent rules across all races help?

“Every track is different, right? But the difference is the main spotters can’t see it, and it is hard to see on the race track. We will adapt. We will be fine.”


How do you expect the no stops at stage breaks to affect the race?

“Again, I think we got pressured into this one. I think this one has the potential to get really strung out – a lot. If we do, I don’t want to hear any complaining on things being strung out, because that is the potential. We had stages, certainly on road courses, this will make for more strategy, but if you are 10 seconds behind the car in front of you, strategy isn’t going to matter a ton.”


MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing  

What are your thoughts with this new tire and aero package?

“It’s hard to compare to last year. We’ve done so many things car wise and everything. It feels slicker, less grip, sliding around more. It was fun. We need to work on our car to be better, but overall, I thought it was okay.”


If you are slipping and sliding, that should give opportunities for passing, right?

“Yeah, for sure. But I’m worried that I’m sliding more than the guys that I’m trying to race with, and hopefully beat on Sunday. We will get to work and hopefully get it it better for tomorrow and Sunday.”


How are the Toyotas compared to last year?

“I’m not sure. At certain spots, I feel better than last year. In certain things, I feel similar. I’m not real sure. Obviously, (Tyler) Reddick was real fast, so he has something figured out. We will have to take a look at that and hopefully get some of that info. I wasn’t super happy about our speed, but I thought we were closer at the end of practice than we were at the beginning.”


Is there a preference on the choose here?

“I think if you are at the front, you want to be the inside, just to defend better, but it is going to be four-to-five wide. I think the leader has the advantage at the jump and trying to beat them into one. Everyone else it is a free-for-all.”


What will be it like with no stage breaks?

“It will be like we used to do at road courses. You will have to have a car that takes off okay, and runs well on the long run depending on how many cautions we have. Fuel mileage could come into play – I haven’t really talked to James (Small, crew chief) about how that plays out or looks. I think everyone is going to be close, but I’m sure guys will be taking chances. It will be something we haven’t done in a long time, and something we’ve never done here.”

Will knowing you aren’t going to have those stage cautions affect how you as a driver approach pushing the car?

“I don’t think so. You are still going to run as hard as you can. You don’t want to throw caution to the wind and smoke the tires off of it, because you are going to pay the price. No matter what – that would happen. I think just knowing that it could come down to long runs and strategy, and things like that. You have to be smart and hit your marks and be smooth in how you do things and maybe put yourself in position to take advantage of guys on older tires.”


CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing  

How was practice?

“With (Tyler) Reddick doing well, Bubba (Wallace) was up there – I don’t know. I wasn’t where I wanted to be for sure, but hopefully we can learn something from our team cars and improve for tomorrow.”


What is the tire fall off like?

“I don’t know. We really haven’t run long enough to know. It was 50-minute practice session. I think the longest run I saw out of anyone was maybe five to seven laps. I haven’t dug into it too much, but I know the longest I ran was around five. I know I’m going to have to go 20 to 25 on Sunday. It is very slick that’s for sure. Slick on stickers, slick on old tires. I think the low downforce should at least make the cars hard to drive.”


Through the esses part of the track, what is the technique through there?

“It’s difficult. One thing that the esses provides is lap time opportunity if you cut the race track. I know that I got in trouble for cutting the race track, and I’m sure many others did too. You want to straighten it out as much as you can, but there is a fine line in breaking track limits and not breaking track limits. It’s a very important part of the race track and wide-open? I would say we are nowhere near on throttle, let alone wide-open throttle. It’s very hairy part of the race track.”


Is there a preferred lane for the choose?

“I don’t think so. At some road courses, I think there will be a preferred lane, but here, the way turn one is such a big breaking zone and it widens out so much, I think either lane can do good.”


What do you think about the lack of stage breaks?

“It’s going to be a tough race on Sunday. That is for sure. I know I’ve never ran a road course race without breaks and it has been a long time since the veterans have too. I think that it is going to be a very good race as far as rewarding those cars that run well. At road courses in the past, it really was two different races between collecting stage points and racing for the race win. Now I think we will see the same guys be able to run for the race win and collect the stage points, so you are going to have be good on Sunday to get points for sure.”