Five Toyota Camrys started today’s Citizens Bank 400 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. This equals the most Camrys to start a NNCS race this season. Other races with five Camrys taking the green flag included Bristol, Martinsville, Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Charlotte and Dover.
Michael Waltrip earned the third top-10 finish this season for Toyota with a tenth place finish in the No. 55 NAPA Camry. This was Waltrip’s third start of the 2007 NNCS season. The Burger King Camry of David Reutimann finished 15th after starting 40th in his first NNCS start at Michigan. His finish marks his career-best NNCS finish.
Dave Blaney finished 18th in the No. 22 Caterpillar Camry after running in the top-10 throughout the afternoon. Rookie AJ Allmendinger made his career-first NNCS start at Michigan from the 43rd position and finished 31st. Brian Vickers ran in the top-10 until an accident on lap 74 collected the No. 83 Red Bull Camry forcing the team to the garage for repairs. Vickers would finish 41st. The best Nextel Cup finish for a Camry this season is when Vickers finished fifth at Lowe’s Motor Speedway (May 27).
It marked the first top-five result for Toyota in Nextel Cup competition. Vickers also scored Toyota’s first top-10 when he finished 10th at California Speedway (Feb. 25).
MICHAEL WALTRIP, No. 55 NAPA Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finished: 10th
What does it mean to earn a tenth place finish today? “It’s really great for our team to have run that well all day today and my guys did a great job on pit road. I messed up there at the end; otherwise I think we could have picked up a few more spots. I just got real tight there at the end and I was trying to pass (Kevin) Harvick and got up into the wall. My guys are a little rusty, but you would have never known it. Today was a hot day and I haven’t gotten to race this much in awhile, but I felt just as good at the end as I did in the beginning. But once the checkers fell — then I started feeling bad — hot, tired and glad it was over.”
What does it mean to Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) to have two top-15 finishes today? “I’m so proud of David (Reutimann). I saw him get lapped early in the race and then I never saw him again — I kept wondering where he was at. To get tenth and 15th with our Toyotas is just great. Dale (Jarrett) missed the race by only one-hundredth of a second and we’re sad that he didn’t make the race, but we’re smiling with the finishes that we got here today. I think we can build on a lot that has gone on lately and I’m really looking forward to watching Terry (Labonte) run at Sonoma next weekend.”
What has helped make the difference to get to this point? “Andy Graves from Toyota started sitting in on our competition meetings and helping us with our direction and structure. It just means the world to us. He’s built winning race teams before on this level and we really don’t have anyone in the position to give us that type of direction. He works for Toyota, but he is kind enough to come and listen — he has helped give us direction and advice. We’ve re-structured quite a bit and we’ve got some more to go, but we’ve got a lot to be proud of here today. The Toyota motor performed perfectly and we got good gas mileage. We ran around the top-10 all day and we were able to finish tenth — that’s a great day.”
BUDDY SISCO, Crew Chief No. 55 NAPA Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
How much momentum does this give your team? “We’ll take momentum any way we can get it. We’ve struggled to get into races this season, but I think we’ve proved that when we do get in the race we can run well. We ran good at Daytona, we ran good at Dover — Michael can drive, everybody knows he can drive and if we give him a good car he can get up front. Today was great for our organization and we have one more at home that we wish we could have gotten in and we might have been able to get three cars in the top-15 today.”
DAVID REUTIMANN, No. 00 Burger King� Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing Finished:
15th How was your race today? “Today was a lot of fun. That was the most fun I’ve had all year. For as horrible as were in practice, and as bad as we struggled early on, I think it’s a pretty good day. The guys kept fighting. We got back on the lead lap when we needed to and kept making good changes. We just got too tight at the end to keep moving forward. We made a good call to put fuel in it so we didn’t have to stop there at the end.”
What does this mean for Michael Waltrip Racing? “One race doesn’t make your deal, but it certainly doesn’t hurt your morale. We’re capable of things a lot better than this and hopefully it’s just a start. Everyone is working hard and what it does is show the guys what they’re doing is working. If we can get these things so we can drive them, than we can race these guys. And we’re getting a little closer to what we need to have.”
ANDY GRAVES, Senior Program Manager NNCS for TRD, U.S.A. (Toyota Racing Development)
Can you talk about the finishes of the MWR team’s today? “It’s been a huge endeavor for their whole start-up organization and it showed early in the season. It’s really hard to get all your systems in place when you’re having to go to the race track every week. They’ve done a great job and hopefully this is somewhat of a turning point in their season and they can start piecing together some good runs each week.”
With the solid runs by the Toyotas today, what does it say about the program improving? “It’s all about small, incremental gains and this was another small step. This is what we need to keep doing each and every week — making small steps forward. We try to get better each and every day. It was a great run to have three cars in the top-18 and Brian Vickers was probably even stronger and should have had a top-five finish today. It was a good day and we’ll take this and move on.”
DAVE BLANEY, No. 22 Caterpillar Toyota Camry, Bill Davis Racing Finished: 18th
“It was disappointing — that last set of tires we put on made the car real loose. We just came to an abrupt stop almost out there on the race track and lost half a lap. We had a good car all day and we could run up there in the top-10, so it’s pretty disappointing to finish 18th. We were a lot better than that. This was a good weekend for us — we were fast from Friday through Sunday and a little glitch on Sunday took us out of a good finish. But overall this was a good step for us with having a good weekend. I think we’re learning and we showed that this weekend.”
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Team Red Bull Finished: 41st
What happened that put you in the garage? “I don’t really know what happened — there was a lot of smoke and other cars wrecking out in front of me. I came out of turn two and just had nowhere to go. I tried to slow down and somebody checked up in front of me and then I got run into from behind. I don’t really know — it was just one big crash. It’s really unfortunate because this Red Bull Toyota was really, really strong today and we were just pacing ourselves and taking our time out there. We had one of the fastest cars on the race track and we were going to have a good day.”
Do you think the lapped cars should have been racing the lead-lap cars that hard this early in the race? “I don’t know who caused the accident — it could have been a lapped car, but I’m really not sure. Those guys are in a position where they are trying to get back on the lead lap and we’re trying to race. I think we’re at that point in the race, whether you are on the lead lap or not where you just have to be pretty smart because it’s just too early in the race not to be.”