October 19, 2008 - Martinsville, VA - Denny Hamlin earned a top-five finish for Toyota in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Martinsville Speedway and Johnny Benson earned the 50th NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) win for Toyota at the Virginia short track on Saturday to regain the unofficial NCTS point lead.
In Sunday afternoon's 504-lap Sprint Cup race, Hamlin started 12th in his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 11 FedEx Camry and ran among the top-10 throughout the entire race to earn a fifth-place finish.
"It definitely feels good," said Hamlin, of his top-five result. "It's a reliever for us. We needed to stop the bleeding for sure so I'm excited to make it to the second half of this ‘Chase'. We've had a rough start and a realistic goal for us is to try to get to the top six or seven in points and I think that's very feasible."
Brian Vickers also ran among the top-10 most of the afternoon in the No. 83 Red Bull Racing entry and was the next Toyota driver to cross the finish line with an 11th-place result.
"We lost it there at the end," said Vickers, following the race. "It just didn't seem to be as strong in those last two runs. We made some adjustments on that second-to-last stop and it really hurt the car. We didn't have a really good short run car anyway, but really proud of the Red Bull guys. This was probably our best short track car that we've ever had. That has been our weakest link at Red Bull since we started and just really proud of the effort. We probably had a top-five car if the race played out the right way."
‘Chase' contenders Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart ran in the top-10 early in the race, but both cars experienced right-front tire problems forcing them to pit road. Busch went on to finish 29th and fell to 12th in the unofficial NSCS points. Stewart finished 26th and fell one position to eighth-place in the point standings. With Hamlin's top-five finish, the Virginia-native gained one position in the point standings and is currently 11th.
Camry drivers Michael Waltrip (18th), Dave Blaney (22nd), David Reutimann (24th), Ken Schrader (28th), Scott Speed (30th) and Mike Bliss (39th) were also in the field for Toyota. Speed made his NSCS debut Sunday in the No. 84 Red Bull Racing Camry.
The next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Oct. 26.
In Saturday afternoon's NCTS race, Benson scored his fifth victory of the season at Martinsville Speedway, regaining the lead in the unofficial NCTS point standings with four races remaining.
The win is the 50th victory for Toyota in NCTS competition since joining the series in 2004 (121 races) and the 14th career victory in a Tundra for Benson. It also marked the 12th win for a Tundra this season.
"That was pretty cool," said Benson, following the race. "I learned a lot -- probably more from the 24 (Jeff Gordon) sitting down in (turns) one and two during our three hours worth of sitting around waiting for the race to start. So I sat down there and watched (NSCS practice) for a bit. I watched a bunch of different lines down there and Trip (Bruce, crew chief) gave me a good truck, no doubt, but just a couple of different lines down there really worked out great. I love Martinsville. I don't like sometimes how it races here, but it's cool to be in victory lane here, I can tell you that."
Benson started fifth in the No. 23 Bill Davis Racing Tundra and led once for 46 laps en route to his fifth victory in the last 11 races. Benson took the lead on lap 155 of the 200-lap race from pole-sitter Ron Hornaday Jr. Hornaday Jr., who led the points race coming into Saturday's race, ran out of fuel with four laps remaining and finished 29th."
"That was pretty exciting there a couple of times when we were battling for the lead -- both myself and Ron (Hornaday Jr.), but we had a great battle," added Benson. "It was pretty cool. I knew Ron (Hornaday Jr.) was having a little problem braking and getting into the corner. I'd see him locking up the left front (tire) every once and a while. So I knew if I got beside him I'd run him hard enough that hopefully he had locked it up and I think that's really what happened and I was able to get by.
Busch finished fourth in the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Tundra, the 23-year-old's 12th top-10 finish in 14 NCTS starts in 2008. Todd Bodine also recorded a top-five finish for Toyota with a fifth-place result, giving Toyota three top-five finishing positions for the second consecutive race.
Speed (seventh) also finished in the top-10 for Toyota, while Tundra drivers Jack Sprague (11th), Mike Skinner (12th), Brian Scott (14th), Terry Cook (16th), Jason White (17th), David Starr (33rd), Dustin Skinner (34th) and Sean Caisse (36th) were also in the field. Dustin Skinner and Caisse both made their first-ever NCTS start on Saturday at the half-mile Virginia oval.
With his win, Benson regained the point lead in the unofficial NCTS driver standings following Martinsville, holding a 65-point lead over second-place Hornaday Jr. Tundra drivers Bodine (fourth), Skinner (fifth) and Cook (10th) are also in the top-10 in points with four races remaining.
The next race on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule is at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Oct. 25.
Toyota NSCS Driver Finishes at Martinsville Speedway
5th, DENNY HAMLIN
11th, BRIAN VICKERS
18th, MICHAEL WALTRIP
22nd, DAVE BLANEY
24th, DAVID REUTIMANN
26th, TONY STEWART
28th, KEN SCHRADER
29th, KYLE BUSCH
30th, SCOTT SPEED
39th, MIKE BLISS
Toyota Drivers in NSCS Point Standings – following Martinsville Speedway**
8th, TONY STEWART 5,735 points
11th, DENNY HAMLIN 5,653 points
12th, KYLE BUSCH 5,628 points
15th, BRIAN VICKERS 3,412 points
24th, DAVID REUTIMANN 2,983 points
29th, MICHAEL WALTRIP 2,615 points
31st, DAVE BLANEY 2,535 points
** unofficial point standings
Toyota NCTS Driver Finishes at Martinsville Speedway
1st, JOHNNY BENSON
4th, KYLE BUSCH
5th, TODD BODINE
7th, SCOTT SPEED
11th, JACK SPRAGUE
12th, MIKE SKINNER
14th, BRIAN SCOTT
16th, TERRY COOK
17th, JASON WHITE
33rd, DAVID STARR
34th, DUSTIN SKINNER
36th, SEAN CAISSE
Toyota Drivers in NCTS Point Standings – following Martinsville Speedway**
1st, JOHNNY BENSON 3,178 points
4th, TODD BODINE 2,946 points
5th, MIKE SKINNER 2,896 points
10th, TERRY COOK 2,575 points
12th, DAVID STARR 2,460 points
16th, BRIAN SCOTT 2,180 points
17th, KYLE BUSCH 2,177 points
23rd, SCOTT SPEED 1,514 points
** unofficial point standings