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Toyota Racing – Daytona NCS Pre-Race Quotes – 08.28.21

Toyota Racing – Pre-Race Media Availability
NASCAR Cup Series Quotes

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 28, 2021) – Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Christopher Bell were made available to media prior to the Daytona race today:

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Shaping Black Futures Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Will 23XI have the red roll cage on the No. 45 Camry next year like we saw in yesterday’s announcement?

“It’s just a show car. We’re just trying to win today. Yesterday was yesterday, but ultimately today we’re excited to try to get this HBCU FedEx Cares Camry in victory lane. We’ve got to have all of our focus and efforts on today’s efforts. I’m really excited about what we can do tonight.”

What is your outlook going into tonight’s race going for the regular season championship?

“Obviously, we’re at a deficit. What’s interesting though is this puts us in a situation tonight where I’m going all out. We know we need to get points and we know that I need to keep myself up front all day. A lot of it too will depend on the situation of the race too because ultimately, I do want to win the race regardless of where the regular season ends up. I’ve still got to trust my instincts in the pack to feel out when I should be there and when I shouldn’t. I’m as confident as anyone should be coming into this type of race.”

How nice does it feel to have the 23XI news out and you can focus on tonight’s race?

“That’s what was really important about yesterday. I told my team that I want to get the 23XI out yesterday and that way when we get to today and we’re talking it’s about giving FedEx the love they deserve on race day. Now I can focus honestly on just trying to win this race today. Then, not only that, but then after let’s go win a championship in the Playoffs. It is a relief to kind of get this over with and now focus on what I can do as a driver.”

How optimistic are you about this year’s Championship?

“Every track we’re one of the top two to three favorites every week. If Vegas believes in us, more than likely everyone should. I like our chances simply because it’s been a very long time, I mean maybe never, other than the last two years where I show up every week and I love what I do because I know I can win. I would say some years haven’t been like that, so I’m really happy with where we are as a team. Even though we don’t have that cushion that we would love to have going into the Playoffs with Playoff points, as long as we just perform the way we’ve been the last three years we’re fine. And, then we’ll make it to the Final Four and we’re not going to not win. I’m very confident we’re going to win before the season is out, if not multiple times.”

What would it mean for the HBCU Camry to win tonight with the Wendell Scott ceremony happening today as well?

“It would mean a lot. It’s a big race in many aspects but it might be the first and only race of the year where there’s nothing to lose for us. As a matter of fact, this will be the last race of the year that we have everything to gain and nothing to lose so I’m going to race that way.”

Do you feel like this year’s Daytona 500 was your best performance here ever?

“Yeah. It was and certainly I hated the way things worked out at the end. Not often do you do too good of a job on pit lane, but we did too good of a job and we got too big of a lead out there and we had nobody to draft with leaving pit road. You learn from that. It’s just these types of races we understand where to be and a lot of it is putting yourself in the right position to succeed. And so far we’ve done that, especially the last eight to 10 years. Hopefully today is no exception.”

What was Dale Earnhardt Jr. doing during the 2001 race at Daytona that you tweeted about last night that is still applicable to tonight’s race?

“What I saw is him manipulating the air side to side. Not necessarily side drafting, but how he maneuvers his car. Little things here and there to make passes. He utilized the car behind him before guys were just drafting in front of him. He understood the draft comes from behind. It’s amazing to watch and it’s like that guy would be competitive today. Obviously, he was when he quit racing, but we haven’t advanced in drafting and in the knowledge of drafting much past what he was doing 20 years ago.”

Will it take anything away from your season if the regular season title slips away tonight?

“No, not really because I know that ultimately the things that cost us the regular season championship were things out of my control. Getting crashed at Indy or running out of gas three weeks in a row on the last lap. Those are things that I couldn’t help. Again, I gave it my best effort, but I also won’t let it get our team down or myself down because I know we can win every week. That’s exciting to me and I know the first round of the Playoffs are fantastic tracks for us and we should be excited about this Playoff run.”

Does your approach change tonight trying to win the regular season title?

“It probably changes a little bit how I would normally race a superspeedway race. A lot of it plays into what I feel in the first 20 or 30 laps. Going into the end of the first stage I’m going to have an idea of where I stand and what I need to do to either get the points or win the race. Sometimes the two don’t mix. I’ll do the best I can to trust my instincts.”

What is your approach to tonight’s race?

“Much of the early part of the race is going to be spent on my side moving side to side and figuring out how my car takes off and where are good positions that it likes to be in. I’m assuming most guys will be trying to get an understanding of what makes our cars faster in this type of scenario.”

Do you feel like guys will race better tonight than normal at this track?

“Did you say better? No. Not at all. I suspect there will be very few cars in the checkered flag photo at the end of the race.”

Is it unusual for you to be this relaxed going into a superspeedway race?

“Again, I keep going back to this is a free race for us. It really is a free one. You just don’t get many like that. There’s always points in the regular season, but they all matter. All of those races add up and the points add up and all that. But we have no position to go but up so and that’s what I like about it is I’m not harnessed by playing defense at all. It’s all offense.”

When did you start to focus on the first tracks in the Playoffs?

“It’s been there for weeks. Me and my crew chief (Chris Gabehart) talk about tracks well, well in advance and what we need to be good there. It’s starts real early, and especially organizations like Joe Gibbs Racing, we have a lot of resources to plan for those.”

Were you concerned about having the conversation with Kyle Petty on the 45 number at New Hampshire?

“I think it was Watkins Glen. I probably misspoke on when it was, but not really. My first part of worrying was when NASCAR was like that number has always been kind of put to the side, nobody has really touched it since Kyle (Petty) and Adam (Petty), so you might want to have a conversation with him, and I’m thinking uh, oh, oh man, how is this going to go, but I need to publicly thank Kyle more about his cooperation with us and really excitement with us bringing it back. I was worried, because I knew he was sentimentally tied to that number and for him to allow us to come back – because he was ultimately the guy who could say no and shut it all down, so big kudos to him for allowing us.”

KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Where do you feel you stack up for this year’s Playoffs?

“Top five probably I’d say. Any of the four Hendrick cars are really good. Three of them are really good. Denny (Hamlin) has been fast a lot of weeks. We’ve been fast a lot of weeks as well too. As we saw last week at Michigan, sometimes you don’t always have to be the fastest car, you just have to have the right push to win. That’s how we won our race in Kansas earlier this year and (Ryan) Blaney won last week. There can be surprise moments any time.”

What are your thoughts on the first round of the Playoffs and advancing through?

“Hopefully we can get a couple wins in the first round. We’ve got Darlington and we ran third there in the spring. Richmond we always run well at and Bristol we always run well at. It would be nice to get a win or two in the first round. That would be great. The second round is probably the most challenging round for us with the Roval and Talladega being in there. Just have not had a good Roval experience yet and Talladega is always Talladega.”

Did you have some fun on social media with ESPN mixing you and Kurt up?

“The ESPN interns were scrambling after I got ahold of them. It was pretty fun. Just having a good old time. I was just sitting at dinner and my phone was out on the table and I saw it light up and it was the ESPN notification that Kyle Busch is joining 23XI Racing and I was like, ‘Oh. Okay. It’s on right now.’ That’s where we were and of course I was with my running buddies from the Bahamas, so we definitely had to have an emergency press conference right then and there and handle the news. I thought we did a good job.”

Who are the guys who were in the press conference with you?

“Just buddies of mine. Just friends. I nicknamed the Mayor, Ronnie. He’s from Denver and he’s been on the Denver side of North Carolina forever. I call him the Mayor because he knows everybody. And, then my other buddy DJ Slogan. His real name is Logan. He will not get through 60 seconds of a song ever, so we call him DJ Slogan because he keeps swapping it out and swapping it out. We’ve just been friends with them in North Carolina.”

Did your friends come up with the emergency press conference when you were in the Bahamas?

“Yeah, the first one. When the news broke that I was allegedly arrested in the Bahamas, and we had to clear that up so we came up with the whole concept there.”

Do you think Toyota debrief sessions are ready for two Busch’s in the same room?

“No, they’re not (laughter). I already told Joe (Gibbs) that. I said, ‘Do not give him a key.’ Hopefully he just has to call in and we can put him on mute when we need to.”

What’s it like as a father to watch Brexton race?

“It’s fun. Brexton is doing a really good job. We started a year ago and he’s only six and it was very frustrating at times just knowing how good he is, how well he could do and him not going out there and doing that. You always try to push your kid as being the dad to do a better job and to do the right thing and all of that sort of stuff. He’s grown into it. He’s racing tonight. As a matter of fact, they’re probably on track now in North Carolina for a points race tonight at Millbridge. On Saturday night, he’s leading the points so hopefully we can get him a good result.”

Do you envision a lot of the sons of NASCAR drivers you’ve raced against racing against each other in the future?

“Yeah. Cash (Bowyer) is racing. Owen (Larson) is racing. There are a lot of younger NASCAR driver’s sons and daughters getting their start and getting rolling. It’s pretty cool to see all of those kids at the racetrack. They’re hanging out and having fun being friends. I didn’t really grow up with that as a kid. It was so cutthroat, and you needed to do everything you could for yourself, and these guys are just having fun. It’s good to see a different way that you can raise your kid in how they’re growing up and we’ll see what happens. I imagine there’s plenty of other families out there too that want to see their kids be successful and get to the top as well. One of them we actually raced against in Quarter Midgets in Ohio. The kid was really, really good. His name was Lincoln, and he was fast and fun to work with too.”

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

What’s your mindset going into tonight knowing four of your five Toyota teammates are locked in?

“I think our mindset is just to try to go win here. We’ve never won this race. We’ve been close lots of times and we are in a spot in points where we would like to gain a spot or two if we could just from a bonus points perspective going into the Playoffs, so that is really our mindset – gain as many spots as we can and hopefully be in position for a win. This has always been a tough race to finish. Hopefully, we are one of the guys running in the end, because it seems like when we are – we are at the front.”

You kind of have a love-hate relationship with this track. What’s your thoughts on racing here?

“I always like coming here to race. It’s a unique challenge. It’s very different than something we do on a week-to-week basis. We just always try to figure out how to be better at it – better at drafting, the strategy and how to do the right thing and make the right moves. Still always learning when we come here and that’s probably no different tonight.”

Have you seen what they have done to Darlington in turn two?

“I have.”

With how good you were back in May, is that a concern?

“I really don’t know. It’s hard to say exactly how it will affect our car. I would say if they were going to repave any place on the track, that was probably one of the places that won’t make a huge difference because your entry speed, your center speed is still going to be limited by the track grip and all of that, but turn two was a big challenge before with the bumps that were in it and the lack of grip, so it’s just going to take that whole turn out of the equation. Everybody will just be flat through there, so it will really make the entry and the middle of one and two and three and four is always important. It just takes one corner out of the equation is my answer.”

Do you feel good going into these Playoffs?

“I feel good in confidence. I feel like we are in a good spot. Our team is confident. They are doing a great job. Good tracks are always a good sign. There are still a few tracks there that are tough, and the Playoffs are always tough in general with the eliminations. If you have a bad week or two, you could find yourself in a bad spot. That’s something that can happen to anyone. We are confident in what we can do. We just need to go execute and not have any big issues.”

What do you feel like you have to get out of the race tonight?

“Well, we don’t have to get anything out of it. That’s the good news. Those guys that are not in the Playoffs right now, they are probably a little bit nervous. There’s really a lot on the line for those guys. For us, we have slipped back in the points through the summer. We had a really tough summer, crashes and crazy stuff happening to us. We would like to gain a spot or two back tonight if we could. This is a place you can do that. Just for bonus points, perspective, when they tally the regular season points up tonight and the amount of bonus points you get from them. That’s really all of what tonight’s about. Get points and win. There’s really nothing else on the table for us.”

Can this race possibly get any crazier?

“No. I honestly think tonight is probably going to be the craziest we’ve ever seen, and I say that because of the rules changes, slowing the cars down. We are going to be stuck together even more. There is potential for big ones anytime we are all together.”

Is that hard to strategize?

“That’s what is tough about it. You are like, okay, let’s all try to get together. The Toyota guys, we all try to get together because we are at such a disadvantage number wise and stay at the front. It starts getting wild and two or three of you get shuffled out and then you are on your own trying to come back through the pack. That’s when the bad things happen, it seems like. I just don’t know that there is a right strategy or a safe strategy or a right place to be here, you just have to hope to make it to the end and you’ve got a few of your teammates left that you can work with. That’s all you can do.”

Do you feel like the 750 tracks in the Playoffs are going to be good for you?

“I think it does. I think it lays out really well for us. I think there is always a couple of tracks in the Playoffs where you never know what could happen. You have Talladega still. You’ve got the Roval still. Texas and Kansas with the 550 package, you never know how those will play out, but in general, some really good tracks for us in the Playoffs. Places that we haven’t been to in a while. Across the board, I wouldn’t say we are the favorite because there is a lot of strong cars out there, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t go execute on our speed and without any crazy bad luck, I think we will be in good shape.”

What is the root of your struggles recently?

“I don’t feel like it’s because we haven’t been performing well. We’ve been fast. We’ve just had a lot of hurdles to overcome, so that’s been tough. We’ve been fast, and I feel good about the team. The pit crew has gelled. They are working well, and things are going well there. I feel fine. I’m not worried at all.”

CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

With all the other Toyota drivers locked in, do you plan on helping Bubba Wallace tonight?

“I mean, for sure, yeah. We are all racing to win. We all have a lot to gain by winning the race, but Bubba (Wallace) winning would be really good for the company as well. We are all going to try to be together for sure. I know that’s the name of the game and it gets proven time and time again is trying to work together. But we all want to run 1-2-3-4-5, but we all want to run first too.”

What is your outlook going into the Playoffs?

“For sure, the points, we are at a deficit. We were able to win one race early on in the year, but that was really it. From that point on, we haven’t been able to get any more bonus points. We still have one more opportunity tonight. We are focused on winning the two stages and winning the race which is seven points that we could accumulate. It’s going to be tough to do but focus on that for sure. As far as the Playoffs go, round one is going to be really, really good for us. We’ve got Darlington, which we were extremely fast on early on in the season, Bristol, Richmond. That’s the first round. All three of those racetracks are really good for us.”

Is there anything from the Xfinity race that you can take into this Cup race?

“Probably not. It’s always good to get more laps and more experience at Daytona and just try to learn the draft and put yourself in different positions and different situations, but as far as relating that to the Cup car, it’s all going to be different.”

How was it working with Chris Gayle for those two Xfinity races this season?

“It’s been really cool. (Chris) Gayle, I actually met with him last year when I got told I was going into the 20 car. It obviously didn’t work out where I got to drive for him in the Cup side, but I’m glad I was able to get two races with him on the Xfinity side. Both races he did excellent, and I had great racecars in both races.”

Is it nice to be back at the track you won on earlier this year?

“It’s definitely got a special place in my heart. Daytona has not been my favorite track. My first race here, I flipped just past the start finish line, so that wasn’t ideal, but to get my first Cup win was super special at Daytona. After all, it is the World’s Center of Racing. Daytona is a special place, and I would love nothing more than to win on the oval.”

Is there added intensity tonight with this being the Playoff cutoff race?

“I think it is genius from a schedule perspective because you come to Daytona, where really all 40 competitors have a shot at winning the event. The last race before the Playoffs, really anyone can win and you got a tight points battle racing for the last Playoff spot and if somebody outside that points battle wins, it really shakes it all up. It really changes the name of the game.”

How do you keep you mind focused on the race?

“It tough. Fortunately for me, I’m locked in, so it doesn’t matter. The only thing I’m racing for today are the two stage wins and winning the race. That’s my goal – to try to win the race and those two stages and move on to the next one.”

What meetings have gone on behind the scenes regarding teamwork in this race?

“Probably just the biggest thing was a group chat between all of our Toyota teammates. All of us know it’s very important to work together. We know how important it is to work together. We see it time and time again, so hopefully, we can all five stay together, work together and push our way to the front.”

About Toyota

Toyota (NYSE:TM) has been a part of the cultural fabric in North America for more than 60 years, and is committed to advancing sustainable, next-generation mobility through our Toyota and Lexus brands plus our 1,800 dealerships.

Toyota has created a tremendous value chain and directly employs more than 47,000 in North America. The company has contributed world-class design, engineering, and assembly of more than 40 million cars and trucks at our 14 manufacturing plants, 15 including our joint venture in Alabama that begins production in 2021.

Through its Start Your Impossible campaign, Toyota highlights the way it partners with community, civic, academic and governmental organizations to address our society’s most pressing mobility challenges. We believe that when people are free to move, anything is possible. For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyotanewsroom.com.



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

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