Camry driver Kyle Busch (third) was the highest finishing Toyota in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Steve Wallace (seventh) and Brian Scott (eighth) also earned top-10 finishes for Toyota.
Camry driver and 2007 Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen made his NNS debut and finished 27th.
Camry drivers Joey Logano (11th), Michael Annett (14th), Cole Whitt (15th), Kenny Wallace (20th) and John Jackson (37th) were also in the field.
Five Camry drivers are currently in the top-20 in the unofficial NNS point standings following 11 of 35 races in the 2011 season — K. Wallace (seventh), S. Wallace (eighth), Scott (ninth), Annett (11th) and Ryan Truex (18th).
KYLE BUSCH, No. 18 Z-Line Designs Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 3rd How was your race today? “Race was good. We had a really good car there in the beginning and through the middle stages of the race. Unfortunately, we just weren’t fast enough there at the end. The car didn’t really change much. We actually got the balance better, but we just didn’t have the speed to carry up with those Roush cars today. Our Z-Line Designs Camry was decent — I appreciate the guys and everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing for doing a great job. It’s funny — Matt (Kenseth) comes and runs a one-off and beats us both. Feel kind of bad, but it’s a little reminiscent almost of 2003 as well too when he beat me. We had a good day today — we come home third and get ourselves a little bit better in the owner’s standings. I won’t be in it next week, but the next race we get to, we’ll be ready.”
Did the tires fall off during the race? “The tires were really good — same compound and everything as the Cup side. It didn’t seem like they were falling off much. Maybe a half a second to a second — that’s actually a little less than normal. Tires had really good grip all day. Surprising for as slick as this place is typically how good the tires wore and how much grip that we did have today. All in all, the cars all seem to drive relatively good, I guess — mine did anyways. Some of the other guys were probably struggling.”
Were you surprised by the Roush cars? “I mean came out of nowhere where they ran me down from a half a straightaway and drove by me and then took off for another half a straightaway. It wasn’t like they just ran up to me and then we raced for awhile. Once they got to me, I was a sitting duck and they just drove by and took off. They were really fast. I got past Kevin (Harvick) and was leading the race there and was just driving away from everybody and I was like, ‘This is pretty good.’ Then we had a pit stop and ran a few laps and had a caution and then we got back going and I stretched my lead out again to about 10 car lengths and I’m like, ‘This is good.’ Then the 60 (Carl Edwards) and the 16 (Matt Kenseth) got clear of traffic back there and they come out of nowhere. They just ran me down and passed me.”
What did you think of Kimi Raikkonen’s race today? “I saw him (Kimi Raikkonen) a couple times today — unfortunately, as we were lapping him once. I think the caution came out right before that and then we ended up lapping him there. He seemed that he was doing alright. It didn’t look like he was too loose. Maybe he was tight and kind of struggling with being able to get to the bottom of the race track. With experience, he just seemed to let it float in there and kind of slide up the race track and they need to get in the gas instead of just slowing the car down and making sure he got to the bottom and running a particular lane, he would let the car go where it wanted to go. That’s experience and not sure how he ended up, but hopefully he had a fun time and didn’t get too hot.”
Are you disappointed at not equaling Mark Martin’s win record today? “Chicago is the race next week and I’m not going — I’m going to Kansas. I’m not going back and forth. There’s a little disappointment, but there’s plenty of time left in order to get there. Those guys were definitely faster than us today. They had the cars to beat and so we just have to wait for another week and when we can get it done. Maybe it’s not too far away.”
STEVE WALLACE, No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota Camry, Rusty Wallace Racing Finishing Position: 7th How did your car handle in the race? “Our car wasn’t bad. Worked real, real hard in practice to improve on our setups and we ran a totally different — I mean totally different package compared to what we’ve ever run. Our intermediate stuff has been absolutely awful this whole year, but we came here with a whole different setup. It ran really good — we finished seventh. From fourth to 10th — it’s just a half-a-tenth and that’s the frustrating part. We have to get that figured out. Our pit stops were good and the cars are handling better so that’s what’s awesome.”
BRIAN SCOTT, No. 11 Shore Lodge Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 8th How was your race? “It was a long day. We fought hard all day. We had a pit road penalty — the guys didn’t do anything bad, just a freak deal. Kevin (Kidd, crew chief) gave me a good car and we were able to drive back up through there. Just kind of picked them off one by one and we were able to come home with a decent day today. We battled all day to get into the top-10. We had a good Shore Lodge Camry and a little track position would have done wonders. We gave up some — we started seventh on that last restart and just was too tight, couldn’t get going and kind of got trapped in the wrong line and gave up some positions. Spent the rest of the run trying to drive back up there. After the month we’ve had — I’ll take an eighth — it feels like a win and hopefully move on to a consecutive streak here of top-10s.”
JOEY LOGANO, No. 20 GameStop Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Finishing Position: 11th
MICHAEL ANNETT, No. 62 Pilot/Flying J Toyota Camry, Rusty Wallace Racing Finishing Position: 14th
COLE WHITT, No. 99 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Pastrana-Waltrip Racing Finishing Position: 15th How did the car perform in your first NNS start of the season? “We had a good car for about two laps and that’s about it. I don’t know what happened. We had a really good race run car yesterday, but — I don’t know — it just slipped away from us here today. We just could never get the thing freed up. We could never get it to turn. I tried to charge forward on one of those restarts with new tires and I thought we did alright. We just never quite got the setup.”
How different was the NNS race at Charlotte compared to last week’s NCWTS race at the track? “It wasn’t a whole lot different. Motors are real similar. I mean, there wasn’t a big difference. The only thing different was you could kind of race with people a little more, you know. Trucks get a little more out of control when someone gets on your right side, but these not so bad. If anything it might have been a little bit easier, but at the same time we just never got the setup right. If we could have got it freed up maybe it would been a different story.”
KENNY WALLACE, No. 09 G-Oil Toyota Camry, RAB Racing with Brack Maggard Finishing Position: 20th
KIMI RAIKKONEN, No. 87 Perky Jerky Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Finishing Position: 27th What happened that made the race car so hot? “The floor got really hot under the seat. I don’t know why the car was so hot inside. It was hurting on the heels, but I couldn’t really do anything. Just tried to keep my foot off the floor and just hold them up.”
Did you enjoy racing in the Nationwide Series? “In the beginning, yes, but the car was getting more and more difficult. It was nice in the beginning and I could overtake on the restart and the car felt really good. It really turned out to be a really bad day with the handling just because I couldn’t get the car to turn and had to almost stop in the corners because it was pushing all the time. The same thing happened in the first and second practice and then we could improve it in the second practice, but somehow something is not right.”
Did the car handle good at any point during the race? “The car was nice after the restart and I could really go high or low and go faster. If the car would have stayed like that then I think we could have finished really high.”
What are your future NASCAR plans? “My plan was always to do these first two races and then I have to go back to Europe and do some Rallies and then we will see what happens.”
Rick Ren, crew chief, No. 87 Perky Jerky Toyota Camry, NEMCO Motorsports Do you think Kimi Raikkonen was struggling with the handling of the car? “The aero package on these cars is — the front running guys are saying the exact same thing. These things just do not handle very well and like where he’s (Kimi Raikkonen) talking about he feels the front end solid, you’ll hear race car drivers say their tires feel like they’re basketballs. If you look at the air pressure that come in on those tires, that’s what it is. It’s just a new feel to him. I’m sure he has never raced cars with that much air pressure in the tires. It feels abnormal to him, but it’s part of how these cars react.”
How did Kimi Raikkonen perform on the restarts? “I was really impressed with his (Kimi Raikkonen) restarts. He did a really good job. One of the other teams got on the spotter because he was pushing him out of the way and he needed to go. When we unloaded for practice Thursday, he was aggressive and attacked the race track where he was very apprehensive the first Truck practice here. I feel like he adapted a lot better. Whether it’s the car or the truck or whether it was because he had run the week before. In practice, he passed some cars low and passed some cars high and I really felt good when we went home Thursday night that he was prepared to come and do this.”
What lessons did you learn from today’s race about cooling these cars in the heat? “We’ll just add some more blowers in the driver’s area. You can put a blower in there to blow across the driver’s feet or another blower to get into their back. I heard Kyle (Busch) say he (Kimi Raikkonen) was hot today too. It’s just part of what we do. We’ve got some extra electrical outlets in there that we can put some blowers into. Just moving the air because they have a side window in there so just moving the air will help keep a driver a little bit cool. You can blow hot air on you, but if it’s blowing on you, at least it feels cool so that is something we’ll work on.”
JOHN JACKSON, No. 72 crashclaimsR.US Toyota Camry Finishing Position: 37th