Kasey Kahne (seventh) was the highest-finishing Toyota driver in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Denny Hamlin finished 14th in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Camry. He ended the year second in the final Chase standings — 39 points behind champion Jimmie Johnson.
Martin Truex Jr. also finished in the top-15 with an 11th-place result — leading the field six times for 62 laps (of 267) at the 1.5- mile oval.
Other Camry drivers in the field included Scott Speed (23rd), Marcos Ambrose (26th), Kevin Conway (30th), Kyle Busch (32nd), Casey Mears (33rd), David Reutimann (38th), Joey Logano (39th), Landon Cassill (40th), Joe Nemechek (41st) and Mike Bliss (43rd).
Busch finished the season eighth in the Chase standings.
KASEY KAHNE, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 6th How did your car handle during the race? “I felt like we didn’t have really that good of a car throughout the race. Jimmy Elledge (crew chief) had good pit strategy right there to finish where we finished, but we didn’t have that good of a car at all. We’ve got work to do in the off-season — everyone here does.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 11th
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 14th What are your emotions right now? “Obviously I’m disappointed. Our car just wasn’t the same. Our car was lightning fast up until that wreck. When we hit the 16 (Greg Biffle) it just knocked the toe out and the car just didn’t drive the same for the rest of the day. We did our best to try to repair it, but it just wasn’t as fast as it was before. We were right around the top-10 when that happened. It’s just circumstances. But, you know, we had a great year. This is a year where we won the most races that we’ve ever won, we contended like we’ve never contended before and just circumstances took us out on this last one.” What was it like pushing Jimmie Johnson for the championship this year? “I didn’t think that they (Jimmie Johnson) showed the strength this year that they had in years past and that opened up the door for teams like myself and a few other teams to win a lot of races. Not only that, we really stepped up our program over these last couple of years and obviously with all of the wins that we had it’s a good feeling to go to the race track and know you can win on any given week. My job is to work in the off-season to do everything I can to be better. I know every year that I’m in the Cup Series that I’m going to be better than I was the previous year. We’re going to take this FedEx team and we’re going to keep working and go get them next year.” What happened early on in the race? “We were just — we handicapped it. That spin really hurt us. It messed up the front splitter and knocked the toe out of the car, and it just didn’t drive as well as it did at the beginning. At the beginning I thought we were in really good shape. Our car was flying through the pack. It was unbelievable. And, just had that incident and it kind of took us out of it.” What did happen in that incident? “I didn’t see — the 16 (Greg Biffle) came down real sharp into the right front. I’m guessing somebody probably suck him three wide at the last minute. That’s part of racing. Those kind of things happen. We can’t control that. We gave it our best shot trying to fix this car. Mike (Ford, crew chief) and the guys kept working on it. Ever since that wreck our car just did not drive the same. It showed up in the end.” What can you take away from your team’s experience this year? “We got better as a team. I feel like I got better as a driver, but we got better overall as a team. For me, that’s all I can ask for is to show up at a race track any given day, and feel like I can win a race and this year I did that every track I went to so that part of it is encouraging. The flip side of it is to have a championship slip away so close. I just knew our day was going to be a tough one after we got in that wreck and the car got banged up.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) What is it like coming so close to a championship? “It’s tough, trust me. These years don’t come by too often in anyone’s career. I was privileged enough to be part of the closest championship in history and give it my best effort, but it wasn’t enough today. Our car got banged up and we just couldn’t overcome that.” How hard is it for you to come so close to winning a championship? “We came close, but close doesn’t cut it. Those guys stepped up and performed at the end of the race like they needed to. Our car just had too many Band-Aids. There were so many Band-Aids on it to try to fix it. We just didn’t have it there at the end. Caution just came at the absolute wrong time when the 29 (Kevin Harvick) spun the 18 (Kyle Busch) and trapped us a lap down. Those are circumstances I just can’t control. There’s not much I can do about it.” What emotions will you take into the off-season? “Well, it’s going to be fuel for me. I’m just going to try to get better. There’s things that I can improve on as a driver. I’ve got to work on qualifying. I’ll study that in the off-season. I’ve got to work on my outright speed on the short go’s, on restarts. Those are the things that I’ve got to get better at and as a team I’ll debrief with them and tell them the things that I feel like our cars need to be to be better in the future. I can assure you we’re going to hang our heads high because we came close this year. We had a great year. Just was a little short at the end.”
JOE GIBBS, team owner, Joe Gibbs Racing What was it like today watching Denny Hamlin going for his first championship? “This is obviously a huge disappointment. I thank our guys though and everybody. I was proud of them. They fought their guts out. Denny (Hamlin) even at the end there fighting his way all the way back to wind up second (in points) was a huge deal for us. And then I think everybody here will hopefully handle this the right way. We realize that it was hard fought all year. Congratulations to the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the guys for winning the championship. I’m really proud of FedEx and Toyota — our big partners here. I’m proud of our team — they fought hard all year.” What difference did you see in Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 team this year? “I just think that it’s a maturing process. Denny (Hamlin) and Mike (Ford, crew chief) have an unusual feeling for each other. Their team here is very solid and the pit crew. In pro sports you can’t win if you’re missing something — a pit crew, a crew chief or whatever. I feel like they’re a very solid team and I think they proved that this year. And, of course, Denny is maturing. He’s still young so hopefully we’ve got a lot of good years in front of us.”
SCOTT SPEED, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 23rd
MARCOS AMBROSE, No. 47 Clorox/Kleenex Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 26th
KEVIN CONWAY, No. 7 Extenze Toyota Camry, Robby Gordon Motorsports Finishing Position: 30th
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 32nd What happened to take you out of the race? “I don’t know. (Kevin) Harvick pulled a slide job on me earlier in the day and I crossed over and passed him clean, but apparently it wasn’t in the time of day in order to do that. I don’t know. My guys work way too hard to be in this position and fight hard all day long to be put with a wrecked race car at the end of the year. We wanted to come out here and finish strong. We felt like we had a top-four or top-five car. It just means so much to me — to those guys — that we come out of here with a good run like we were having. It’s very unfortunate. It’s just a guy that doesn’t have his head on straight apparently today. I thought everything was good. I talked to him in the pre-race in the driver’s meeting and all of that, but he’s such a two-faced guy it just doesn’t matter.”
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 33rd
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 38th What happened to your race car? “It felt like we’ve had a pretty good Aaron’s Dream Machine — got loose while I was getting in a little bit there and got in the fence a little bit. It ended up ultimately blowing out a left rear (tire) and got us into the wall and pretty much destroyed the car. I don’t know if we had a left rear (tire) going down because a lap before the car had been good and then all of a sudden right after that it started getting really, really bad loose. It looks like we blew a left rear tire and caused a ton of damage. Not exactly the result we were looking for.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 39th What happened to take you out of the race? “I have no idea. It’s unfortunate. It stinks — I don’t know what happened. We came off the corner there three-wide and the 42 (Juan Pablo Montoya) got loose in the middle of the turn and kind of put us three-wide there. I don’t know — I was down. I gave him plenty of room. I just felt like I got hooked. That’s two times with him this year so we’ve got to figure that out. I don’t know what the deal is. We’re going to get it fixed and get back out there and try to save a spot in points.”
LANDON CASSILL, No. 64 Empire Steel Toyota Camry, Gunselman Motorsports Finishing Position: 40th
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 Young Eagles/HeatRedefined.com Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 41st
MIKE BLISS, No. 66 Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports Finishing Position: 43rd