Kyle Busch (second) was the highest-finishing Toyota driver in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Camry driver Kasey Kahne (sixth) also earned a top-10 in the 312-lap event.
Other Camry drivers in the race at the one-mile oval included Denny Hamlin (11th), Martin Truex Jr. (14th), Casey Mears (18th), Bobby Labonte (21st), David Reutimann (29th), Brian Vickers (30th), Joey Logano (33rd), Landon Cassill (38th), Michael McDowell (41st) and Joe Nemechek (43rd).
Busch leads the unofficial NSCS point standings following Phoenix with a three-point advantage over older brother Kurt.
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Combos Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 2nd What happened with the contact between you and Carl Edwards? “It was a real big mistake on my part and the first person I have to apologize to is Carl Edwards, obviously for what happened there on the backstretch. It just got out from underneath me and we were getting bounced around like a ping pong ball there for a while. I got into him and just killed his day. I know he was frustrated and I could tell out there on the race track. I apologize, I don’t know how many times. It was unintentional, especially for the way we raced yesterday — it was so good to race that way and put on a good show for the race fans. To have that happen, I know they had a good race car. All that aside, I can’t thank these guys enough for this Combos Camry. They did a great job this weekend bringing up a great race car off the truck. We had a fun time today. We came through a lot of adversity. We worked real hard, Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys never gave up. The pit stops were good all day. We kept battling through everything that was thrown at us. There at the end, Jeff (Gordon) just had a better car than us. I thought when I got out to a big enough lead, I thought I was going to hold him off this far and he just ran me down and flat out passed me. He was really, really fast and we couldn’t hold him back. It’s good to see those guys in victory lane. Those are my old 5 guys. That’s cool if anything is good about today.”
How much impact did the damage on your car affect the second half of your race? “A little bit here and there. The damage was minimal, it was cosmetic stuff. You never know what was bent underneath still. I think we had a car capable of winning, so did the 99 (Carl Edwards). I hated that we got together there early and I ruined his day. We made the most of our effort and got it to where we could.”
Are you surprised Jeff Gordon was excited to have passed you for the win? “I think he was on a mission today, that’s for sure and when Jeff Gordon has a good car and he has the opportunity to beat you, he’s going to beat you so. There’s no doubt about that. He’s my hero and I’ve always watched him and what he’s been able to accomplish over the years. It’s no surprise that he beat us. You know, we were good. If you look at it, we were better than the third place car by a little ways, kind of like yesterday. Seemed like front two would just kind of walk away from it. But there’s always that one car that’s got to ruin the whole weekend, and it had to be the 24 car. But you know, it is what it is, and unfortunately we come home second. We missed the chance of a sweep, but you know, all things considering and what we are going after for this year, we would have loved to have gotten a win with our Combos Camry today but we’ll take that and head on home to Vegas.”
What were the closing laps of the race like for you? “Yeah, he (Jeff Gordon) was gaining on me really good and I knew he was going to get to me eventually and this place is so flat and it’s one groove that we all run the bottom. He got so tucked up behind me on three and four, he got me loose and I could not put the gas down. I mean, he was so far up underneath me that I could not go forward. So I was loose, and he was just waiting for the exit of the turn to turn underneath me and get alongside of me and then once we got down into turn one, we both drove off in there pretty deep and I had enough where I could slow down and kind of run on what I thought would be the second lane. And he just drifted up a little bit into me and knocked me out of the way. But it doesn’t matter. He had a fast enough car. He could have done that, either way, would he have won if he didn’t do it, if he did do it. It has nothing to do with how he won.”
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Combos Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing (continued) Were you worried Carl Edwards was going to retaliate after the contact earlier in the race? “He was mad, for sure, and he was frustrated, definitely. You can see that entirely out there the whole rest of the race — any time I got within five car lengths of his rear bumper he would start checking up early, getting into the corners and slowing down and getting more space between me and the other guys. Finally after about 20 laps of that, he let me go. It was weird. He just — he was playing. You know, it didn’t cost me anything at the end of the day so, it didn’t hurt anything on our side, you know, but again, from what happened with us yesterday and how we raced each other, I thought that was great. And I made a mistake today. I’ve admitted that, time over again and again. Hopefully we can get past this and go on. I know it’s early in the year and all that stuff, but it doesn’t matter even if was late in the year. It was just a mistake on my part.”
What were you trying to do when you made contact with Carl Edwards? “I got a little bit loose, and when I caught it, I just kind of steered down to try to get down underneath or back in behind the 39 (Ryan Newman) car and I never even looked in my mirror. I was just watching out in front of me. You know, the spotter didn’t even have time to react and say anything; Carl was there. Yeah, I just turned down right across him.”
KASEY KAHNE, No. 4 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 6th Are you happy with your finish today? “Yeah, I was real happy with it. We had a great car and today we were just really loose. We started getting it better there the longer the race went on, but it was a lot of adjustments and a great job by the pit guys. Kenny Francis (crew chief) did a great job with the adjustments to get the car better. We were going the right direction, it just took us 258 laps to get there. But, we had a great car and this is my worst track so to come out with a top-10 I’m pretty happy. These Red Bull cars are quick.”
Are you looking forward to next week at Las Vegas after your strong finish today? “I love Vegas. I like the atmosphere there and I enjoy the racing there too. The track is pretty cool and the crowds are great. There should be a lot of fans and it should be a fun week. I look forward to it. It should be a blast.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 11th How would you evaluate your race? “It was up and down, mostly down. We just ran around ninth to 11th all day long. We just couldn’t get over that. We were upfront and had those few restarts at the beginning, our car was strong. Obviously, you have to have a car that can pass in traffic and we couldn’t do that. When we did have track position we came out of the pits and lost a ton of time. That hurt us quite a bit. We just couldn’t pass cars. We’ll go to work and see what we have.”
Did traffic make it more difficult to pass? “It was nearly impossible. We have these cars running so fast with the grip level that it’s just nearly impossible. Everyone runs single-file for the most part. We just don’t have long runs anymore, everyone short pits and everything. When passing is available and the cars are worn out, everyone starts to pit immediately. It’s kind of a tough game you have to play.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Finishing Position: 14th How was your race? “We had a much better car than 14th. We had a problem on pit road and it cost us. We had a car that was very capable of winning. My guys did a great job to improve my NAPA Toyota all weekend. We just need to learn from this and get ready for Las Vegas.”
CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 18th
BOBBY LABONTE, No. 47 Clorox Toyota Camry, JTG-Daugherty Racing Finishing Position: 21st
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Best Western Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 29th
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team Finishing Position: 30th What happened on the race track? “The 17 (Matt Kenseth) ran us into the wall, door slammed us into the corner coming out of turn two, just 67 laps into a very, very long race. I felt like it was unnecessary and I’m sure it will come back to him.”
Were drivers being aggressive on the track? “I think it’s pretty aggressive this early in the race. Definitely with what happened with Matt (Kenseth). In general, I think everyone is racing hard because track position is important. All the cars are so even and it’s so hard to pass right now. You can get besides someone and it’s very difficult to complete the pass. Guys are really racing hard for that position — for every single spot. But in general, I didn’t have anybody that I felt raced me unnecessarily hard or unnecessarily rough until we got wrecked.”
Why would competitors be racing so aggressive? “I don’t know. At this point at this race track you want to protect your position. It’s a difficult place to pass, track position is very important, all the cars are very even. People just are not willing to give up that spot and we haven’t had a long run either. When you have double-file restarts and five laps into a run you don’t want to budge on that spot. At 25 laps into a run we get single-file and you start realizing who’s faster and who’s not and I think people are more willing to give. We just had a bunch of short runs here at the beginning of the race.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 33rd What ended your day in Phoenix? “I’m guessing something in the valve train broke initially about 50 laps into the race. It finally just blew up. We had a good car during the first run there, we were up there in the top-five. I thought we were going to be alright, we made a few little adjustments and I think we were getting better. She just let go, I don’t know what it is. They’ll figure it out. It’s just something little, usually that’s all it takes — something little like that to happen. It’s a tough break for us. Two bad weekends in a row is a lot for this Home Depot Toyota team to make up right now so we have our work cut out for us.”
LANDON CASSILL, No. 60 Big Red Toyota Camry, Germain Racing Finishing Position: 38th
MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 66 HP Racing LLC Toyota Camry, PRISM Motorsports Finishing Position: 41st
JOE NEMECHEK, No. 87 NEMCO Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 43rd