November 9, 2008 - Avondale, AZ - Toyota drivers recorded a pair of runner-up finishes in two of this weekend's three NASCAR races at the Phoenix International Raceway one-mile oval. Denny Hamlin was the runner-up in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race -- as well as the first Camry driver to the finish line in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race -- and Kyle Busch crossed the finish line second in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race.
In Sunday afternoon's NSCS race -- the penultimate event of the 2008 season -- Hamlin started eighth in his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 11 FedEx Camry and ran among the top-10 most of the afternoon en route to a fifth-place finish. The Chesterfield, Virg.-native followed Jimmie Johnson (first), Kurt Busch (second), Jamie McMurray (third) and Carl Edwards (fourth) to the checkered flag in the 313-lap event.
"It was a good run, for sure," Hamlin said, following the race. "We just struggled to find what we needed because it was just a little bit off all day. If we could get out of pit road ahead of those guys, we probably could stay in front of them. We were about a fifth-place car all night. It was a good day for us and we got ourselves back in the top-10 -- that's what it's all about."
Making it into the top-10 in the championship point standings is important to Hamlin as the season nears its end. "It's a big deal," explained Hamlin. "I missed the (year-end) banquet last year and watched it on TV. That part of it stinks. You want to get on stage and you want to thank your crew and your sponsors and everything -- they deserve it to have their driver up there on that stage each and every year. I want to get up on stage and thank all these people that supported me. I wasn't able to give that to them last year, so hopefully we'll do it this year."
Camry drivers following Hamlin to the finish line were Busch (eighth), Marcos Ambrose (18th), Dave Blaney (20th), Tony Stewart (22nd), Michael Waltrip (24th), David Reutimann (25th) and Ken Schrader (27th). Both Red Bull Racing Team drivers -- Scott Speed (40th) and Brian Vickers (42nd) -- had a tough day at Phoenix. Vickers hit the wall after an early tire problem and Speed got caught in an accident late in the race.
In the unofficial NSCS point standings with one race remaining this season, Hamlin (ninth), Busch (11th) and Stewart (12th) are all among the top-12 in the standings.
The final race on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule is at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 16.
Saturday afternoon at Phoenix in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race, four Toyota drivers finished among top-10 and Hamlin ended as the runner-up to race-winner Carl Edwards in the 201-lap event.
Hamlin started from the pole in his JGR No. 18 DLP HDTV Toyota and led the field twice for a total of 62 laps. Late in the race during a caution period five laps from the finish, Hamlin came down pit road for four fresh tires. The move enabled Hamlin to work his way up to second-place at the checkered flag.
Hamlin did not second guess the late race maneuver. "Well, it was no decision for us -- I'm surprised anyone stayed out right there," said Hamlin. "Those two laps I thought we were going to go back to green and they called it off right at the last minute. That really got us, but it was still a great run by this team."
"When we were out front our car was good," added Hamlin. "I just got there back in the pack and we had to put 20 lap tires on, our practice tires, because we were one set short all day. We weren't able to make up much ground until we actually put stickers (new tires) on. We didn't think we were going to be in contention for the win anyway, so we had to do whatever the leaders didn't do. If they were going to pit, we were going to stay out and vice versa."
The three other Camry drivers to finish in the top-10 were Busch (fifth), Mike Wallace (seventh) and Joey Logano (10th), who was running third until a late-race spin. Other Camry drivers in the field were Josh Wise (23rd), Jason Leffler (25th) and Reutimann (31st).
In the unofficial NNS championship standings, Busch (sixth), Reutimann (seventh), Wallace (eighth) and Leffler (ninth) are all among the top-10 drivers in the standings.
The last race of the year on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule is at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 15.
In Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at the Arizona oval, four Tundra drivers registered top-five finishes in the second to last race of the 2008 season. Tundra drivers Busch (second), Todd Bodine (third), Brian Scott (fourth) and Mike Skinner (fifth) crossed the finish line behind race-winner Kevin Harvick.
Busch started on the outside of row one in the Billy Ballew Motorsports No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Tundra, and ran among the leaders throughout the 150-lap event. He led the field twice for a race-high 90 laps and finished 0.940 seconds behind Harvick. After a late race pit stop for new tires, Busch charged through the field but was unable to catch the race-winner.
"It was a good race for us," said Busch, after the event. "We had qualified second, started outside the front row and led some laps -- which was good. I figured we probably had a third-place truck, but we came home second and I'm absolutely ecstatic about that."
Johnny Benson struggled throughout the evening in his No. 23 Bill Davis Racing Tundra and finished 26th. However, Benson still heads to the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway leading the championship point standings by three points over second-place Ron Hornaday, Jr.
Early in the race, Benson suffered damage to his Tundra when he was caught up in the aftermath of Hornaday. hitting the wall. Later in the race, Benson made contact with another truck which resulted in additional time in the pits repairing his truck.
"It felt like everyone was out there gunning for me and Ron (Hornaday, Jr.)," said Benson, after the race. "It was just a bad race for the both of us. I don't know what happened to Ron at the beginning, but I know we got a little piece of that. We were involved in that a little bit and it bent the truck up. We kept working on it and thought it was -- probably not better -- but after we put tires on it and made some adjustments I thought maybe we could run in the top-six or top-seven and felt like it was driving good enough. And, then I went underneath the 7 (T.J. Bell) – I'm not really sure what happened there, but that's where we're at."
Other Toyota drivers in the field included Terry Cook (11th), David Starr (13th), Speed (14th) Jack Sprague (17th) and Michael Annett (18th).
Tundra drivers Bodine (third), Skinner (fifth), Sprague (ninth) and Cook (10th) join Benson in the top-10 in the unofficial NCTS point standings.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season-finale takes place at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 14.
Toyota NSCS Driver Finishes at Phoenix International Raceway
5th, DENNY HAMLIN
8th, KYLE BUSCH
18th, MARCOS AMBROSE
20th, DAVE BLANEY
22nd, TONY STEWART
24th, MICHAEL WALTRIP
25th, DAVID REUTIMANN
27th, KEN SCHRADER
40th, SCOTT SPEED
42nd, BRIAN VICKERS
Toyota Drivers in NSCS Point Standings – following Phoenix International Raceway**
9th, DENNY HAMLIN 6,090 points
11th, KYLE BUSCH 6,080 points
12th, TONY STEWART 6,059 points
19th, BRIAN VICKERS 3,513 points
22nd, DAVID REUTIMANN 3,289 points
29th, MICHAEL WALTRIP 2,840 points
30th, DAVE BLANEY 2,754 points
** unofficial point standings
Toyota NNS Driver Finishes at Phoenix International Raceway
2nd, DENNY HAMLIN
5th, KYLE BUSCH
9th, MIKE WALLACE
10th, JOEY LOGANO
23rd, JOSH WISE
25th, JASON LEFFLER
31st, DAVID REUTIMANN
Toyota Drivers in NNS Point Standings – following Phoenix International Raceway**
6th, KYLE BUSCH 4,281 points
7th, DAVID REUTIMANN 4,264 points
8th, MIKE WALLACE 4,019 points
9th, JASON LEFFLER 3,926 points
19th, DENNY HAMLIN 2,612 points
20th, JOEY LOGANO 2,416 points
31st, JOSH WISE 1,573 points
** unofficial point standings
Toyota NCTS Driver Finishes at Phoenix International Raceway
2nd, KYLE BUSCH
3rd, TODD BODINE
4th, BRIAN SCOTT
5th, MIKE SKINNER
11th, TERRY COOK
13th, DAVID STARR
14th, SCOTT SPEED
12th, DAVID STARR
17th, JACK SPRAGUE
18th, MICHAEL ANNETT
26th, JOHNNY BENSON
Toyota Drivers in NCTS Point Standings – following Phoenix International Raceway**
1st, JOHNNY BENSON 3,574 points
3rd, TODD BODINE 3,431 points
5th, MIKE SKINNER 3,278 points
9th, JACK SPRAGUE 3,022 points
10th, TERRY COOK 2,934 points
12th, DAVID STARR 2,832 points
15th, KYLE BUSCH 2,684 points
16th, BRIAN SCOTT 2,612 points
21st, SCOTT SPEED 1,924 points
** unofficial point standings