October 26, 2008 - Hampton, GA - At Atlanta Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin was the top Toyota driver to the finish line in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) event -- registering third-place results in both races. In Tennessee Saturday afternoon, two Camry drivers also recorded top-five results in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Hamlin, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 11 FedEx Express Camry, started 11th and ran among the leaders throughout Sunday's race. He led the event once for 56 laps late in the 325-lap event at the 1.5-mile Georgia oval, and crossed the finish line behind race-winner Carl Edwards and second-place Jimmie Johnson.
"We had a race-winning car, but our car didn't like those cycles on those late cautions," said Hamlin, following the race. "We had the field licked and then we had that debris caution with about 30 (laps) to go, and it just changed the whole complexion of the race. When that happens, you have to take it for what it's worth. We tried to do the best we could. My team gave me the best car they've ever given me here and they gave me an opportunity to win. We just weren't able to capitalize."
Hamlin's JGR teammate Kyle Busch also registered a top-five result with a fifth-place finish, although he had to work hard for the result.
"It was hard fought, for sure," said Busch, after the race. "The guys kept digging in and Steve (Addington, crew chief) kept making changes to the best of his knowledge -- the best he could to get us further up there. We just didn't have anything today. We were out to lunch there a long ways and made the most of a solid run. I'm happy with that I guess -- a top-five. We need to start running in the top-five and then the wins should come back our way.'
Following Hamlin and Busch to the finish line were Tony Stewart (17th), Brian Vickers (21st), David Reutimann (28th), Marcos Ambrose (29th), Scott Speed (34th), Ken Schrader (35th), Michael Waltrip (37th) and Dave Blaney (41st). Ambrose was making his NSCS debut in a Camry with Michael Waltrip Racing and Speed was making his second career Cup series start.
Stewart (eighth), Hamlin (11th) and Busch (12th) are all among the top-12 in the unofficial NSCS point standings with three races remaining this season.
The next race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is at Texas Motor Speedway, Nov. 2.
At Memphis Motorsports Park Saturday afternoon in the Nationwide Series race, Reutimann recorded a season-best result with a runner-up finish to race-winner Edwards and 18-year-old Joey Logano scored a fifth-place result in the 253-lap race at the Tennessee short track.
Reutimann, who started 37th after missing qualifying due to practice for Sunday's NSCS race in Atlanta, battled back from two laps down to challenge Edwards for the win on the final restart. He was able to get his No. 99 Aaron's Dream Machine Camry on Edwards' bumper for the final two laps of the event, but was unable to get around Edwards in a ‘green-white-checkered' finish.
"Three-quarters of the field was in the same situation when we ended up being two laps down," explained Reutimann. "We got one of our laps back the old fashion way -- I fought for it and got it back and then the second time we got the ‘Lucky Dog' and were able to get up there. Yellows fell just our way to the point where it put us in the right situation to be able to win the race. The ‘green-white-checkered' was one of those deals where you could've easily drove down in there and drove in the back of him (Carl Edwards) and moved him up the race track and went on, but that's just not generally how I like to do things. So, I didn't and we were second."
Logano started 24th and was also able to work his way through the 43-car field to earn his fourth top-five finish and 11th top-10 in 16 NNS starts this season.
In qualifying, 18-year-old James Buescher earned his first career pole position driving a Braun Racing Camry and led the field during the opening 24 laps before finishing 19th.
Marc Davis started fourth in his NNS debut in the No. 18 JGR Camry, but a slow leak in his right-front tire resulted in a 23rd-place result for the 18-year-old Maryland native.
Other Camry drivers in the field were Jason Leffler (12th) and Mike Wallace (14th).
With his second-place finish, Reutimann moved into the sixth position in the unofficial NNS point standings. Busch (seventh), Wallace (eighth) and Leffler (ninth) are also among the top-10 in the point standings.
The next race on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule is at Texas Motor Speedway, Nov. 1.
Although Hamlin started 20th in the No. 15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Tundra in Saturday afternoon's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Atlanta, the Chesterfield, Va.-native was able to work his way through to claim a third-place finish in just his second start this year in a Tundra.
Hamlin was one of five Tundra drivers to register a top-10 result at the Atlanta oval. Following Hamlin to the checkered flag were Toyota racers Todd Bodine (fourth), Speed (fifth), Johnny Benson (seventh), Busch (eighth) and Brian Scott (10th). Cup veteran Ryan Newman was the race-winner and Ron Hornaday, Jr. ended up second.
"I thought we had a pretty good race," said Hamlin, following the event. "I definitely would have liked to watched those guys on the last lap -- I didn't know it was a last lap pass. That's why I decided to run this race. Typically, it comes down to a finish like that at Atlanta. They always put on a great show here, and I wanted to be here -- I think you get the most action per lap when it's a short race like this."
Benson, who came into the Atlanta race with a 65-point lead in the championship standings, left the track ahead of second-place Hornaday, Jr., by 31 points. He battled handling problems throughout the race en route to a top-10 finish.
"We had a huge vibration somewhere and we just kept making different adjustments trying to accomplish the same thing and make it better," said Benson, after the race. "We just kept working on it. Trip (Bruce, crew chief) and the guys did a great job to get it so we could run to the end. To finish seventh -- that was better than we ran all race, for sure.'
Other Toyota drivers in the field included, Jack Sprague (13th), David Starr (14th), Chrissy Wallace (25th), Mike Skinner (26th), and Terry Cook (28th).
The next race on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule is at Texas Motor Speedway, Oct. 31.
Toyota NSCS Driver Finishes at Atlanta Motor Speedway
3rd, DENNY HAMLIN
5th, KYLE BUSCH
17th, TONY STEWART
21st, BRIAN VICKERS
28th, DAVID REUTIMANN
29th, MARCOS AMBROSE
34th, SCOTT SPEED
35th, KEN SCHRADER
37th, MICHAEL WALTRIP
41st, DAVE BLANEY
Toyota Drivers in NNS Point Standings – following Atlanta Motor Speedway**
8th, TONY STEWART 5,847 points
11th, DENNY HAMLIN 5,823 points
12th, KYLE BUSCH 5,783 points
18th, BRIAN VICKERS 3,362 points
25th, DAVID REUTIMANN 3,062 points
29th, MICHAEL WALTRIP 2,667 points
31st, DAVE BLANEY 2,575 points
** unofficial point standings
Toyota NNS Driver Finishes at Memphis Motorsports Park
2nd, DAVID REUTIMANN
5th, JOEY LOGANO
12th, JASON LEFFLER
14th, MIKE WALLACE
19th, JAMES BUESCHER
23rd, MARC DAVIS
Toyota Drivers in NNS Point Standings – following Memphis Motorsports Park**
6th, DAVID REUTIMANN 4,052 points
7th, KYLE BUSCH 3,931 points
8th, MIKE WALLACE 3,754 points
9th, JASON LEFFLER 3,726 points
19th, DENNY HAMLIN 2,316 points
23rd, JOEY LOGANO 2,117 points
** unofficial point standings
Toyota NCTS Driver Finishes at Atlanta Motor Speedway
3rd, DENNY HAMLIN
4th, TODD BODINE
5th, SCOTT SPEED
7th, JOHNNY BENSON
8th, KYLE BUSCH
10th, BRIAN SCOTT
13th, JACK SPRAGUE
14th, DAVID STARR
25th, CHRISSY WALLACE
26th, MIKE SKINNER
28th, TERRY COOK