Three Camry Drivers Cruise Into Championship 'Chase'

September 08, 2008


September 7, 2008 - Richmond, VA - Tropical Storm Hanna played havoc with NASCAR's race schedule this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, forcing two races to be rescheduled into a one-day event featuring a day-night stock car racing double-header on Sunday.

In the afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at the Virginia .75-mile oval, three Toyota Camry drivers finished among the top-10 and three Camry racers get to challenge for the series title by making the ‘Chase for the Sprint Cup.' Three Camry drivers also finished among the top-10 in the evening's NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race, and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) results featured two Tundras in the top-five.

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates Tony Stewart (second) and Denny Hamlin (third) chased eventual Sprint Cup Series race-winner Jimmie Johnson to the finish line late in the race, but were never able to catch him at the conclusion of the 400-lap event. Stewart started eighth in his No. 20 Home Depot Camry and led the field four times for 23 laps en route to his second-place finish. Hamlin, who is a Chesterfield, Va.-native, started 11th in No. 11 FedEx Express Camry and led four laps on his way to a third-place result.

"We just couldn't get by Jimmie (Johnson)," said a disappointed Stewart, after the race. "We did everything we could. We raced him clean -- we raced him the way he would have raced us. I wanted to race him with respect – the way he would me – and we just came up short."

David Reutimann and Kyle Busch also registered top-15 finishes at Richmond. Reutimann, driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 44 UPS Camry, led the field for a race-high 104 laps and earned a career-best ninth-place result. Busch, who had early damage to his No. 18 M&M's Camry due to contact with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., managed to end the day with a solid 15th-place finish.

The three JGR teammates -- Busch, Hamlin and Stewart -- will all now challenge for the season-long driver's championship during the last ten races of the year. Busch tops the ‘Chase for the Sprint Cup' standings with 5,080 points, 70 points more than sixth-place Hamlin and 80 points ahead of eighth-place Stewart.

Does Busch believe his team can win the title after dominating the season's first 26 races? "Well, you can't envision anything, you can only hope for the best and do what you can to keep yourselves in the right positions at the right times," says Busch. "So, the only thing we can do is try to do what we've done all year long. And, that's to race hard and still mind what we're doing and trying to keep up front and keep up those consistent finishes. If we can go for a win -- it's great. If not, it's going to be top-fives and top-10s to get this deal done. You know, to come back in today's race and finish 15th with a tore up race car like that -- that's championship-caliber right there."

Other Camry drivers in the field at Richmond were Michael McDowell (20th), Dave Blaney (22nd), Ken Schrader (27th), Michael Waltrip (28th), Brian Vickers (36th) and AJ Allmendinger (43rd).

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sept. 14.

In Sunday night's NNS event, won by Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin (fourth), Joey Logano (seventh) and Kyle Busch (10th) finished among the top-10 in the 250-lap event.

Hamlin started 27th and was able to work his way through the field in the JGR No. 18 Farm Bureau Insurance Camry.

"I think we had a pretty decent run," said Hamlin, following the race. "We didn't have anything for Clint (Bowyer) and the other guys. We had a second-place or a third-place car most of the day, but we just couldn't quite get the car turning good enough in the middle to hang with those guys. If we did, we just got too loose off. It was a good run for the whole team and it's definitely good to be back racing with these guys."

Other Camry drivers in the field included Mike Wallace (15th), Jason Leffler (30th), Reutimann (34th) and Wise (35th).

In the unofficial NNS point standings, for Camry drivers rank among the top-10 -- Reutimann (sixth), Busch (seventh), Wallace (eighth) and Leffler (10th).

The NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to action at Delaware's Dover International Speedway, Sept. 20.

In Saturday afternoon's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Gateway International Raceway outside St. Louis, a pair of Tundra drivers -- Johnny Benson (third) and Todd Bodine (fourth) -- finished among the top-five.

Benson -- the defending race-winner at Gateway -- started 14th in his No. 23 Bill Davis Racing Tundra, but quickly worked his way through the field early in the 160-lap, 300-mile race on the 1.25-mile Illinois circuit. A two-tire stop late in the race put Benson at the front of the field. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-native managed to lead six laps, but was passed by eventual race-winner Ron Hornaday, Jr. and runner-up Dennis Setzer.

"Using pit strategy was the only way we could get in the top-10, with the new engine rules package (NASCAR introduced beginning at Gateway)," said Benson, following the race. "It was tough -- our Tundra was decent and we could roll through the corners good, we just got hurt on the straight-away."

It was Benson's 11th top-five finish in 17 NCTS races this season.

Tundra drivers Mike Skinner (seventh) and Ted Musgrave (10th) also scored top-10 finishes, and Skinner paced the field for 18 laps.

Other Tundra drivers in the field included Shane Sieg (13th), Terry Cook (17th), Chrissy Wallace (19th), Michael Annett (24th), Marc Mitchell (26th), Justin Marks (27th) and David Starr (28th).

With his third-place finish, Benson continues to hold onto the top spot in the unofficial NCTS point standings and is now 94 points ahead of Hornaday with eight races remaining. Bodine (fourth), Skinner (fifth) and Cook (10th) are also in the top-10 in points with eight races remaining this year.

The next race on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sept. 13

Toyota NSCS Driver Finishes at Richmond International Raceway
2nd, TONY STEWART
3rd, DENNY HAMLIN
9th, DAVID REUTIMANN
15th, KYLE BUSCH
20th, MICHAEL MCDOWELL
21st, DAVE BLANEY
27th, KEN SCHRADER
28th, MICHAEL WALTRIP
36th, BRIAN VICKERS
43rd, AJ ALLMENDINGER
 
Toyota Drivers in NSCS Point Standings – following Richmond International Raceway**
1st, KYLE BUSCH            	5,080 points#
6th, DENNY HAMLIN              	5,010 points#
8th, TONY STEWART		5,000 points#
 
15th, BRIAN VICKERS 		2,854 points
25th, DAVID REUTIMANN		2,427 points
30th, MICHAEL WALTRIP        	2,009 points
31st, DAVE BLANEY               1,998 points
37th, AJ ALLMENDINGER        	1,526 points
 
# ‘Chase for the Sprint Cup' championship points
 
Toyota NNS Driver Finishes at Richmond International Raceway
4th, DENNY HAMLIN
7th, JOEY LOGANO
10th, KYLE BUSCH
15th, MIKE WALLACE
30th, JASON LEFFLER
34th, DAVID REUTIMANN
35th, JOSH WISE
 
Toyota Drivers in NNS Point Standings – following Richmond International Raceway**
6th, DAVID REUTIMANN       	3,564 points
7th, KYLE BUSCH                 3,478 points
8th, MIKE WALLACE            	3,254 points
10th, JASON LEFFLER             3,202 points
21st, DENNY HAMLIN              1,971 points
28th, JOEY LOGANO               1,577 points
34th, TONY STEWART             	1,354 points
 
Toyota NCTS Driver Finishes at Gateway International Raceway
3rd, JOHNNY BENSON
4th, TODD BODINE
7th, MIKE SKINNER
10th, TED MUSGRAVE
13th, SHANE SIEG
17th, TERRY COOK
19th, CHRISSY WALLACE
24th, MICHAEL ANNETT
26th, MARC MITCHELL
27th, JUSTIN MARKS
28th, DAVID STARR
 
Toyota Drivers in NCTS Point Standings – following Gateway International Raceway**
1st, JOHNNY BENSON        	2,596 points
4th, TODD BODINE                2,347 points
5th, MIKE SKINNER               2,323 points
10th, TERRY COOK                2,158 points
12th, DAVID STARR               2,042 points
13th, TED MUSRAVE              	1,987 points
18th, JUSTIN MARKS              1,705 points
19th, KYLE BUSCH                1,697 points
23rd, MARC MITCHELL            	1,295 points
26th, SCOTT SPEED               1,150 points
** unofficial point standings
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