Toyota MENCS Daytona Race Recap

Toyota Racing Post-Race Recap
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway
Race 1 of 36 – 500 miles, 200 laps
February 17, 2019

4th, Joey Logano*
5th, Michael McDowell*
*non-Toyota driver

Camry driver Denny Hamlin won his second Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, capturing the 125th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory for Toyota. It was also the second Daytona 500 title for Toyota.

Today’s win was the 100th victory in a Toyota Camry by a Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver since Toyota first began competing with JGR in 2008.
Toyota drivers finished 1-2-3 for a third time since the manufacturer first joined the MENCS in 2007 – Richmond Raceway (April 2011) and Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 2018). Kyle Busch finished second while Erik Jones was third.

Toyota drivers led 116 laps (of 207) with Matt DiBenedetto leading a race-high and career-best 49 laps before finishing 28th following an on-track incident.


DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 1st

What do you have to say right now to all of the Denny doubters?

“It’s amazing. I told them over the radio, I’ve been in this position so many times I can’t believe how many times I’ve been on the front row on the last restart for the Daytona 500 and I dinged myself one for four in this situation, but I guess now I’m two for five. Amazing job by this whole FedEx team. I’ve got to thank Toyota, everyone that helped put this race car on the track. Coca-Cola, The Jordan Brand – Michael Jordan’s birthday is today, it’s pretty amazing. Everybody at Little Big Burger as well. Just a great day overall for our race team. We’ve got a rookie team here for me. A lot of these guys are brand new and some of them are still on this team. We have all of these FedEx executives here. It’s just the greatest day.”

What an incredible win it was for you.

“The rebranding of the car as well, to bring back the white and the FedEx, it’s just one of those where it just felt like it was meant to be honestly. Our car was really good. We got a little mixed up there in the middle of the race where we couldn’t get the fuel in the car, but other than that, we were running up front all day and put ourselves in great position and just capitalized at the end. Hats off to Kyle (Busch) as well. I know he was eagerly wanting his first victory here in the Daytona 500, but today it just wasn’t going to be tonight.”

You talked to your crew chief about what to do on that restart. Talk about making that decision on what to do to get in front of Kyle Busch on that last restart.

“When he (Kyle Busch) gave me the top, I literally was doing a little cheer in my mind thinking, my playbook said always choose the top no matter what and no matter who is behind you. It doesn’t matter. That’s what I’m saying. I’ve been on the front row so many restarts and lost it because I’ve been on the bottom. I just felt like when we got the opportunity to jump up there, obviously there were circumstance that happened behind us to allow us to be in front of the caution, but I felt pretty good about being on the top line there and then obviously we thought it was the best idea for us – when he (Kyle Busch) asked about me pulling down in front of him on the final restart and I was good with that because I thought between him and the 22 (Joey Logano), those were going to be the two best pushers and it worked out well for us.”

What does J.D. Gibbs mean to you?

“The whole family – they did so much for me over the course of my career. This one is for J.D. We are desperately going to miss him the rest of our lies. His legacy still lives on through Joe Gibbs Racing and proud to do this for them.”

A new crew chief with Chris Gabehart this season. What is it about him that you believed in him and getting you back in Victory Lane?

“He’s a short track racer. That’s what I love about him. He’s just got that short track mentality. Same as (Mike) “Wheels” (Wheeler). Wheels car ran pretty damn good today too. It’s just amazing to be in this position and thank FedEx, Toyota, all these partners, Coca-Cola, The Jordan Brand, Monster Energy, everyone who put this car on the race track. This is amazing. I don’t want to tear this one up because I want to put it back in my house.”

What’s different about this celebration now that you’ve won the Daytona 500 twice?

“I don’t know. I’m just going to enjoy it more. I mean I think I was so dumbfounded about everything that happened the first time with the photo finish and everything. This one lets me soak it in a little bit more. I’m going to have a terrible hangover tomorrow, but I’m going to enjoy it the rest of my life.”

Talk about that last restart and choosing the outside lane.

“They gave us the option there to just drop in front of him and I thought that was the best idea to hopefully get one of the two of our cars in victory lane. I thought it was the right decision for us to stay up top there. It was a good decision. We actually got a really good run up there when we came up in three and four. I thought he was going to get position on us, but we just backed up to him just enough to keep him at bay. Proud of not only our team, but his team as well and having a great shot at the Daytona 500. I know this was as close as he came. He was a great teammate all day and we worked well together.”

What did it take for you and crew chief Chris Gabehart to get back to the front?

“We had to take no tires there on the second to last stop just to get our track position back. We had a little bit older tires than the other guys, but I knew that it was the right call because track position was going to mean the most for us. As the track cooled, the tires weren’t going to mean as much. It was definitely the right decision for us.”

J.D. Gibbs is very special to you and we lost him recently – can you put that into perspective?

“No, I really can’t. We have his whole family here. He meant a lot to me and it’s hard for me not getting choked up because I’ve been choked up about 100 times about it. Just to have Melissa (Gibbs) and all the kids here, it’s just crazy. Joe and his whole family and what they’ve done for my career – to bring them back to victory lane again is just amazing.”

Two-time Daytona 500 champion, what does that mean to you?

“I’ve been in this position – last year was in this position, but I chose the inside lane. It was the wrong decision. I knew my playbook and the top was the place to be and it worked out well.”

JOE GIBBS, team owner of Joe Gibbs Racing

You finished 1-2-3, it can’t get much better than that.

“I got to tell you what happened right here – J.D.’s name is on that car. That’s his number 11 with Denny. He found Denny. I’m just saying what happened here is emotional for all of us and the family. Denny racing like he did right there is just unbelievable. I’m emotionally shot. I’m just saying, what happened here is really unreal. I’m just thrilled. I think J.D. has the best view of everything. It’s really an unbelievable experience. I don’t know how to put it into words. I just thank the Lord for letting us be a part of this. I hope J.D. – I hope people will go to and see that video. I think it could be life changing for them.”

DAVID WILSON, president of TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development)

What does this win mean for Toyota?

“This was extra special. We know how hard it is to win this race, this plate racing today. We’ve been talking about it all week. Everybody has been picking one of our competitors to win because we just don’t have the numbers, but the neat thing is we set up strategy and we worked the strategy. I’ve always said plate racing is team racing. The winner of this doesn’t win as an individual, he wins as part of a team. To have Toyotas go 1-2-3 when we only have five that frankly are capable of winning is extremely gratifying.”

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Chocolate Bar Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 2nd

Can you describe the last few laps and your disappointment with a second-place finish?

“I just was trying to work on a run with the 11 (Denny Hamlin) and you can never trust those behind you so they all scattered and went around me and I had to work my way back up there. Just wasn’t meant to be today obviously. It’s frustrating for sure. We had a great car. The guys at Joe Gibbs Racing and everybody at Toyota – I think all of them and I feel bad for everybody at M&M’s and Interstate Batteries and Snickers and Skittles and all of those that support me and try to get this 18 car to victory lane. It’s nice to see a teammate win. It’s very, very bittersweet obviously, but I guess we’ll come back and try again.”

Do you wish you would’ve just raced it out on that final restart?

“Yes and no. Again, trying to make sure at least one of us got to victory lane is first and foremost. After that you try to go race it out and see what you can do for yourself and for your team. There wasn’t enough cars out there really. There was six cars running at the end. I don’t know that anything would’ve been any different really if anything would’ve materialized. I think we all would’ve been stuck side-by-side given if I would’ve been on the outside or something like that. It’s so hard to tell. I don’t know how it would’ve played out, but I’m not going to worry about it.”

Do you feel you had a chance to win if you didn’t let Denny Hamlin go in front of you?

“I don’t know. Strength is in numbers. We were trying to at least protect one of our cars being able to get to victory lane and I felt like we were able to do that with being able to do what we did on that last restart. Overall, it’s certainly bittersweet. It’s awesome to see a JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) Camry in victory lane for Joe and J.D. (Gibbs) and everything that’s kind of gone on this offseason with all of that, but it’s very, very bittersweet for everybody at M&M’s, Interstate Batteries, Skittles and Snickers and all those that support us and all my team guys that work so hard to try to get to victory lane for us and try to get our Daytona 500 victory. He’s (Denny Hamlin) got two, I’ve got none, but that’s the part of it sometimes and we just need to move on and go the next time.”

Did you think you were in the right spot on the final restart?

“No, we made a deal with the 11 (Denny Hamlin) to let him down. In doing that it was strength in numbers trying to keep us all together and there was not enough cars for anything to materialize because there was six cars out there so I probably knew better but took that chance to make sure one of us won.”

Was it chaotic out there toward the end of the race?

“Everybody is trying to get positions and trying to move people out of the way and people don’t give and take anymore when it comes down to that part of the race. They just drive through everybody and don’t care.”

Did you think you had something for Denny Hamlin on that last lap?

“I was trying to get a push from the 22 (Joey Logano) and he just scattered and went around me so there was no help from behind. Pretty much knew that it’s every man for himself anyways. I tried to make something happen and just nothing came about.”

ERIK JONES, No. 20 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Finishing Position: 3rd

How were you able to come back and finish third tonight?

“It was a weird day. The Sport Clips Camry had a lot of speed in it early and we kept finding ourselves towards the front. We were up there where we wanted to be with Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin) and I’m like, ‘Man, we’re in a great spot to get to the last 15 laps or so and race for it.’ I don’t know. We just lost fuel pressure and we came to pit road and came back. We didn’t change anything, fired it up and went back. Got back on the lead, got caught up in a wreck and got pretty significant amount of damage and we were just trying to get it fixed enough to get minimum speed. As more of the race happened and more and more people wrecked we found ourselves upfront. A day of never giving up and never giving in and it worked out great. It’s definitely the most perseverance I’ve had in a race in NASCAR. I had a lot of fun.”

Do you enjoy racing at Daytona winning here in July and now a third-place finish in the Daytona 500?

“Definitely the last two times have been pretty good to me. I wish we would’ve had one more lap. It was actually really fast still and I was having a lot of fun and wish we could’ve got up there with Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin). Great for JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) with a one-two-three. You never would’ve guessed we would’ve made it one-two-three there by the end, but an awesome day and a good start to the season.”

MATT DiBENEDETTO, No. 19 Procore Toyota Camry, Leavine Family Racing

Finishing Position: 28th

What happened in the accident from your vantage point?

“Just one of those racing deals. I talked to Paul (Menard) there and he was just trying to get to my outside and got into my right rear. This is the first time that I’m seeing it and he just got to my right rear and was trying to push. I was focused on trying to help my Toyota teammates and I hope they can pull it off. This was the best speedway event I’ve had in my life – being able to lead and do some incredible things. This is such a great team and I know we can show them what we’re doing here. I’m just so proud to be a part of Toyota and Procore as my sponsor – all these guys – Leavine Family Racing and Toyota, they all took a heck of a chance on me and I’m glad we proved what we’re here to do. I’m pretty heartbroken, but appreciative to be here. Thank you so much to all the fans for all the support, just happy to be here.”

What did you feel happened coming behind you with Paul Menard?

“It was just a racing deal. Nothing intentional. I have a great relationship with Paul (Menard). I think he was trying to sneak to my outside but wasn’t quite there and when he bumped me it just clipped my right rear and turned me in the wall. Just a racing deal. Nothing we can do about it. We had one hell of a day going. I’ll tell you that. The car was fast and I’m so darn thankful that Toyota, Procore my sponsor, Leavine Family Racing – I don’t know if everyone understands how big of a chance they took on taking me and I will be forever thankful. I have an amazing crew chief with Mike Wheeler and great people around me. We showed what we are here to do so we accomplished a lot. Led the most laps, had a fast race car so I’m thankful for that, but I’m not going to lie I’m pretty heartbroken.”

What was it like to be leading the field today?

“This was the most amazing and heartbreaking all in the same day. Unbelievable how fast my car was. I’ve never had a piece under me like that, so that’s amazing. I have really great teammates. I’ve got to give them a lot of credit helping me dealing with all of the questions I ask. Kyle Busch is obviously a great one to lean on and I’ve been bugging him. So, it’s heartbreaking but it’s really neat to lead that many laps, have that many things going and I’m so appreciative to all of my fans. I’ve had so much support it’s overwhelming. They’ve been a big part of getting me to where I am. I’m just appreciative for this opportunity.”

How do you carry this momentum from Daytona to Atlanta next weekend?

“At the end of the day there were a lot of positives to take out of this day. I’m heartbroken, but there’s a lot of positives that we came and put these cars together quick. Had a lot of changes with this team and we came out and led the most laps and were flying in our Toyota Camry today. A lot of momentum going into the season even though it kind of ended pretty heartbreaking.”

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

Finishing Position: 35th

Did you feel like that crash was coming for a while?

“Yeah, we knew it was going to come, just hemming and hawing over when to go and when not to go. We finally decided to go before that last caution. We got 10 spots or so and were in good shape. Got a couple more on the restart and then all hell broke loose. It’s just Daytona. That’s the way it is.”

How was the racing out there today?

“I think it was just because everybody’s cars weren’t handling very good today. You could make about any lanes work as long as you could stay in the throttle. We just tried to bide our time all day. We were really fast early on and we lost the track position when that caution fell at a weird time in green flag stops and we found ourselves in the rear. We just kind of chilled out and tried to take care of our car and everybody did a good job of not wrecking most of the day and so when it was time to go we didn’t have track position and then like I said all hell broke loose and it was right in front of us. Just plate racing. Just the way it goes.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of


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