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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Toyota drivers look ahead to Pocono; Stenhouse looks for fourth straight win at Iowa

BACK FROM THE BRICKYARD: Camry drivers Kyle Busch (second), Denny Hamlin (sixth) and Martin Truex Jr. (eighth) registered top-10 results in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Busch started seventh and led three times for 43 laps (of160) at the 2.5-mile historic track, but was never able to reel eventual race-winner Jimmie Johnson. The runner-up result is Busch's first top-five finish since a third-place result at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, as well as his career -best finish at Indianapolis. Hamlin started from the pole in his Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 11 Camry and was at the front of the field twice for a total of 27 laps. Mark Martin (11th) and Clint Bowyer (15th) also earned top-15 results for Toyota at the Brickyard, where the Toyota Camry made its 200th start in NSCS competition.

PROUD POCONO PAST: Camry drivers have won three times at Pocono Raceway. Most recently, Logano was victorious from the pole in the June NSCS race at Pocono. The 22-year-old led the field four times for a total of 49 laps (of 160) to earn his second-career NSCS triumph. Hamlin has visited victory lane four times at the Pennsylvania triangle, including twice in a Camry -- 2009 and 2010. Hamlin has the highest average finish (9.3) at the track among active drivers -- and the two-time Pocono pole-winner also has the highest average starting position (5.8) among active competitors. The 31-year-old driver of the JGR No. 11 Camry has registered eight top-five finishes and nine top-10 results in his 13 Pocono starts. Hamlin, with four Pocono triumphs, trails just Jeff Gordon and Bill Elliott, for the most wins in track history with five.

HIRSCHMAN HEADING HOME: Tony Hirschman, spotter for Busch and the JGR No. 18 Camry, hails from Northampton, Pa., located approximately 40 miles from Pocono. Hirschman, who is in his first year spotting for Busch, is the son of five-time Whelen Modified Tour champion Tony Hirschman Sr. He will also be on the spotter stand for Tundra driver Timothy Peters in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at Pocono. Hirschman's brother, Matt, also races in Modifieds, and was the series runner-up in 2008.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS): After 20 races, Denny Hamlin is fifth in the series point standings, trailing leader Matt Kenseth by 64 points … Martin Truex Jr. (seventh), Clint Bowyer (10th) and Kyle Busch (11th) also rank in the top-15 in the standings … Busch sits second among 'wild card' candidates for the Chase … Bobby Labonte has won three times at Pocono Raceway … Labonte swept both NSCS races at the track in 1999 and won again at Pocono in 2001 … Mark Martin, who finished runner-up in the June Pocono race, holds the most top-10 finishes (34) at the 'Tricky Triangle.'

How do you approach each corner at Pocono?
"You have to be very disciplined as you enter turn one. They have marks on the side of the wall and you want to discipline yourself to use those marks so you don't overdrive the corner. You try to get all the exit speed off of (turn) two as you can -- you shift into fourth (gear) about 200 yards past turn two to try to get that long run right before you get to the tunnel turn. For my approach, I try to arc into the tunnel turn just as wide as I can to make sure I get that long, low line on the exit of the tunnel to make sure I get a good line into turn three. Into turn three, you're just trying to carry all that speed you can because that front straightaway is so important for passing that you have to get position on a guy off of turn three. You want to carry as much throttle as you can, but down shift right in the center of three, make sure you pull the up shift right before you get to the start-finish line."

What do you think about on the long straightaways at Pocono?
"You just think about what you can do to make it better, 'What can I do this next corner to make my previous one better?' You're constantly downloading that information and with those long straightaways at Pocono, you've got the time to do it."

What was the racing like at Pocono in June following the track repave?
"I thought the racing there was kind of the same, not much different. It was a little bit harder to pass because it seems like when you're out front in clean air you have so much more of an advantage than being back in traffic than what it used to be. To me, it was always a hard, tricky place, but it's actually finally started becoming a two-lane race track in turn three -- you could run the bottom and you could run the top with what we call 'the grip strip.' Now it's all grip so it's all back to the bottom again and you can't really make much time up on the outside anymore. The pavement job is great. They took out a lot of bumps --it's only going to get worse over time, which is fine -- it makes character."

Will your Indianapolis setup transfer to Pocono?
"The package we ran at Indy is something I think will work at Pocono. Since they changed the side skirt rules, we've struggled a little bit as a team. We were really onto some stuff that was working good for us at Kansas and Texas and places early in the year, and then they cut the side skirts off on us. We had to go to work. The package that we ran at Indy is a lot different. It's something that I think will work at Pocono -- it's a lot more similar to what Mark (Martin) ran really well with at Pocono. Heading down that road and hopefully we'll work things out and have a good run." NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS): After 19 races, Mike Bliss ranks eighth in the series point standings … Brian Scott (ninth) is also among the top-10 in the standings … Darrell Wallace Jr. will be back behind the wheel of a Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Camry at Iowa Speedway … The 18-year-old finished ninth in his first series start at Iowa in May … Michael McDowell will drive the JGR No. 20 Camry … Brett Moffitt will make his NNS debut in the RAB Racing No. 99 Camry this weekend … Moffitt, a native of Grimes, Iowa, has seven wins in a Camry in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East … Eric Groen, rear tire carrier for the JGR No. 20 team, is a native of Sioux City, Iowa … Groen also works in the JGR office as a sponsor services account manager for team partners Home Depot and Pizza Ranch.

Are you looking forward to returning to Iowa after almost winning there in May?
"I feel like I gave one away. I was speeding on pit road. I think we had one of the fastest cars and we restarted 14th or 15th with 40 laps to go and finished third on a green-flag run, so we had a great car there. I made a mistake on pit road. I feel good about going back. As much as I want to beat myself up and be very upset about Iowa and about making that mistake, it's something that you learn from. The thing that I'm excited about is how well we raced and how fast we were. As a driver, yo u just want a chance at winning a race and you want to have the opportunity to do it, and I'm getting that opportunity here and now it's just a matter of capitalizing and getting one in the bank." NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS): After 10 races, Timothy Peters continues to lead the series point standings … Matt Crafton (sixth) is also in the top-10 in the standings … Toyota drivers have visited victory lane at 16 of the 18 current race tracks on the NCWTS schedule and Pocono is one of only two tracks where Toyota has not crossed the finish line first … In the two NCWTS races at Pocono, Tundra drivers have finished runner-up with Kasey Kahne (2010) and Kyle Busch (2011) … Denny Hamlin will drive the KBM No. 18 Tundra at Pocono

Do you enjoy racing at Pocono?
"I'm excited about going back to Pocono with the new pavement. I'm really close with the Mattioli family just from the South Boston Speedway back in South Boston, Va., because they own that track as well. It's cool to have that relationship with them. We haven't had the results that we want there in the past, but a lot of the places we went to this year we've been able to change that. Everything from the past is out the window with the new pavement. I've heard a lot of great chatter about the speeds and we've been trying to relate with some of the Toyota teams that have been there to try to help us so when we unload we're pretty close."


Roush Racing notes
— Matt Kenseth is second in the RFR championship hunt trailing first by 14 points in the Sprint Cup standings. Greg Biffle is third (-22) and Carl Edwards is 12th. Ricky Stenhouse is third in the NNS point standings trailing by 13 points.
— Fastenal will be the primary sponsor on Stenhouse’s No. 6 Ford Mustang this weekend at Iowa Speedway. He will be going for his fourth-consecutive win at Iowa.
— Trevor Bayne and various RFR pit crew members will be on “Good Morning America” on Thursday at 8am (on ABC) to promote the 2013 Ford Fusion.
— This weekend Roush Fenway will look for its fifth ever Sprint Cup victory at Pocono Raceway in the Sprint Cup Series, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will look to make it four in-a-row at Iowa Speedway.
— Stenhouse has won the last three Nationwide races at Iowa Speedway and will look to become only the seventh driver in Nationwide Series history to win four consecutive events at a single track.
— Roush Fenway will make its 174th start this weekend at Pocono, where the company has led over 950 laps, while notching four wins, 42 top-five and 67 top-10 finishes. Roush Fenway topped 80,000 miles completed in the Sprint Cup Series at Pocono in June; the second most of any track for Roush Fenway.

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