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Denny Hamlin wins, Gibbs teammates Kenseth and Ragan finish top-5 at Martinsville

Posted On Monday, 30 March 2015 20:00 Written by
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Denny Hamlin claimed the first victory of 2015 for Toyota in Sunday afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Virginia's Martinsville Speedway.

-- The victory was the fifth for both Toyota and Hamlin at the half-mile Virginia short track.
-- With this win, Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx Camry team are locked into the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship battle.
-- The Chesterfield, Va.-native started 15th and led 91 laps (of 500) en route to the 66th Camry NSCS win since Toyota joined the series in 2007.
-- The victory was Hamlin's 25th of his NSCS career tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Weatherly for the most NSCS wins by a Virginia native.
-- Fellow Camry drivers and Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth (fourth) and David Ragan (fifth) also earned top-five finishes at Martinsville.
-- In addition to Hamlin, Kenseth (11 laps) also took some turns in the lead during the race.
-- Five Camry drivers are currently in the top-20 in the unofficial NSCS point standings -- Hamlin (eighth), Kenseth (12th), Ragan (13th), Carl Edwards (18th) and Clint Bowyer (19th).

Here are some quotes from Hamlin and others from post-race press conferences:

How were you able to hold off Brad Keselowski in the closing laps?
"Just great race cars and part of a great organization that gives me cars that we're able to do it. I feel like I missed out on so many grandfather clocks here because of mechanical issues and such. We just weren't going to be denied today and hat's off to Brad (Keselowski). He had an option and he took the latter – thank him for that. I'm proud of the whole FedEx team – we're going to the Greenbrier and celebrate after this win."

How was the handling on the car?
"Every time we got to the lead our car just got so loose that it was very hard for me to hang onto it. The success that I've had at this race track comes from watching guys like Bugs Hairfield, Roy Hendrick, Ray Hendrick, Eddie Johnson and those guys that I idolized growing up racing late models and showed me the way to short track racing. This win is for guys like that."

How strong was the car?
"We had a very fast car, but obviously some pit road issues, but we overcame it. We got luckily on the inside line on that last restart and that was the key for us to win. Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys gave me a car I could win with and we got it done."
How hard were you trying to get off pit road to restart on the inside lane?
"Tried, but sometimes it messes you up when guys have penalties. It's hard to play that game, but we did on the last stop and luckily it paid off for us."

How special is this win with the news about J.D. Gibbs this week?
"No doubt – J.D. (Gibbs) is the one that gave me my start 10 years ago and can't be prouder to put Gibbs Racing back in victory lane. They've been with me for so long and believe in me, this is what happens."

How big is this win for Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota?
"It's a big win for Gibbs and Toyota. It's been roughly a year for both of us, and really myself. We're just not used to not having success, and especially with the resources that we have. Boss man over here expects a lot from us and we expect to be in victory lane and be up front. You know, even though it doesn't cure things, it makes things better, and what this does for our race team in particular is that we've got some kinks in our team right now, but like Dave (Rogers, crew chief) says, this allows you ‑‑ this buys you months of time to get everything worked out and get all the kinks worked out because we know we can go on a championship run, and knowing that this racetrack holds the key to that top four getting into Homestead, I like our chances. I told you last year, get us to that Eliminator Round, whatever that was, and we were going to be tough, and with the package that Dave gave us this weekend and the entire Gibbs team obviously, we're excited to come back here and be part of a championship. But it doesn't come easy. You don't just rest on your laurels. We had the longest competition meeting I've ever been a part of this past weekend. Joe (Gibbs) raised his voice, which doesn't happen very often, told us to get off our tails and go to work, and we all did it, and great result for this race team. Sometimes you need a leader like that to kind of put things in perspective. Not that people weren't working hard, but it just takes that extra 10 percent out of everyone to get to that next level, and I'm very proud of the speed that we've shown with our 11 team so far this year. We've run top 5 every single week except for Phoenix, and we're going to work on that. We're excited. We're excited about what we've got going on and what's to come for us."

DAVE ROGERS, crew chief, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How important is this win for the team?
"It's a big deal. We get the monkey off our back early, build some confidence with this race team. It's a new race, got a lot of new faces on the team, guys from the Truck Series, guys from the XFINITY Series, a bunch of new faces, and Denny (Hamlin) and I are rekindling our relationship, so a lot of learning to do, and a win leading into an off weekend where we can talk about it, enjoy it, dissect what we did good, what we did bad and get better, it's just a great opportunity for this race team right now, and I'm really excited about it."

MATT KENSETH, No. 20 Dollar General Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 4th
How strong was the car in the race?
"I thought we had a top-three car. In the long run and at the end of the race I thought we actually had the best car – me and Denny (Hamlin). Then on that last restart, that recent set of tires just didn't agree with it – didn't have any grip and couldn't go anywhere. Just kind of hanging on, which is unfortunate. The crew guys put us out in the lead and gave us a great opportunity again this week. I feel like I didn't get it done, but did the best we could with what we had there."
Are you happy with the finish?
"It's hard to be disappointed with a fourth at Martinsville. Really happy that Denny (Hamlin) is in victory lane. He is one of the biggest reasons I can actually run in the top-10. Good for him and a great teammate – glad for him. I was disappointed there at the end, we just couldn't go on that short run and just kept dropping back. The run before I couldn't go on a real short run, but we were better on the long run and thought we were going to have a shot at them. Then after that last caution I just couldn't get going."

DAVID RAGAN, No. 18 M&M's Crispy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Finishing Position: 5th
How does it feel to get this strong of a finish since joining the team?
"I feel like we've under-performed the last three or four weeks. A lot of it has been just mistakes on my behalf, mistakes on the team's behalf and we've been really good. We've had some good speed and we've had top-10 cars, but we just haven't been able to have a good, entire weekend. Finally, we put together a good race where we weren't very good Friday and Saturday. We put together a good race today and that's what's the most important."
What came together for this finish?
"You have to qualify well, you have to communicate well on Saturdays and you have to have mistake-free races on Sunday. We just haven't put together a full, entire weekend and I think that just shows that we've had the speed and we're capable of doing it, we just have to get the job done. We were very close to not coming away with a good finish today. We had some damage early that we had to repair, but good strategy and it was fun to drive this Toyota. I had a lot of fun wheeling this thing and thinking about Joe Gibbs and J.D. (Gibbs) today. It's awesome to see Denny (Hamlin) in victory lane. This team has been working hard and it would be great if we could get one soon."

CLINT BOWYER, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Finishing Position: 13th
How important was this finish after the challenges in handling all weekend?
"We worked hard all weekend for that finish. I'm real proud of Brian Pattie and the guys. We just missed getting a top-10 finish for the 5-hour ENERGY Toyota. I just got too loose at the end but proud of our effort. Congrats to Toyota on the win."

-- Quotes courtesy of Toyota Racing

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

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