Denny Hamlin is hot and rolling. The Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 NASCAR Sprint Series race at Michigan International Speedway is his trophy. The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team nabbed yet another win, a combined total of five point race victories in 2010.
When the Chase positions are reset after Richmond, his team is almost certain to be way up on the fast list.
The top seven drivers at MIS—Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.—shared their words before the green flag and then after the checkered flag.
Hamlin talked about experience. Kahne pointed out engines. Busch mentioned Gibbs. Gordon revealed his favorite track. Stewart pondered the Chase. Johnson sees someone other than the 48 team attaining the championship. Earnhardt called his car bullet-proof.
FYI WIRZ is the swift presentation of pertinent motorsports topics compiled and condensed by Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com
Denny Hamlin [No. 11 Toyota]
"The track is very similar to Pocono. When you have a car that is really good, it just shows up huge on the stopwatch. Any place where you have long straightaways like that, it’s the first man to the gas wins, it seems like.
“Aero is a big deal and the restarts are absolutely crazy because we’ve got the whole race track to use.”
“We're not going to get complacent, I don't think. Even though it looks strong, it's not as easy as it looked today. Friday and Saturday were somewhat of a struggle for us. We got lucky qualifying seventh. It was still on me to do my job to win the race. You know, I understand this is show business.
“All I can say is we'll just keep digging. When things go your way like they have for us over the last 10 races, you know, the confidence level is just huge, whether it be in the middle of the race, [or] at the beginning. When you have a car as fast as what mine was today, it's so easy to be patient. When you have a car that is not, you can't be patient. That's probably why I got myself in trouble over the last couple years with a few wrecks.”
Kasey Kahne [No. 9 Ford]
“There is so much racing room out there that you have to really work on your setup,” Kahne said. “I feel like that is one of the tracks where it is really critical to have a good aero and engine package. It also can be a race where cars run away and get strung out and there’s not a lot of passing going on. As far as the width of the racetrack and racing groove, there’s plenty of room. If you have a good car, you’ll be able to pass and it will be a fun race.”
“We showed up with a new Ford engine, night-and-day difference than what I had last week at Pocono," Kahne said. “I was definitely happy with the Roush-Yates Ford engine that they brought for our first time to race. It was a nice improvement. So that was good for all the Ford teams. I think they'll all run better now.
“It was a good run for us, something to build on. I think we have a strong team and we showed that in the past. We just need to keep building on it.”
Kurt Busch [No. 2 Dodge]
“We’ve been so proud to take Dodge to Victory Lane in the Atlanta and Charlotte points races and in the big Sprint All-Star Race win,” Busch said. “But, winning this weekend at Michigan—at their home track right there in their backyard—would be extra cool and extremely gratifying. There are always big bragging rights when you win at MIS.”
“As the race progressed, the track rubbered in,” Busch said. “It wasn't that we didn't keep up with adjustments. I thought we had a good handle on the car. Other guys got better than us. In Sprint Cup racing, if you're off just a little bit, somebody is going to jump on top of you, get by you, pass you, make you feel like you belong up there.
“Gibbs is running strong. Those guys have all the top ingredients it seems like. When you're a chef and somebody gets a better looking steak than you, it's going to taste better. Those Gibbs guys are doing it right now with their horsepower, their aerodynamics. They've sorted out the spoiler it seems like.”
Jeff Gordon [No. 24 Chevy]
“If you’re going to be successful in this sport, I think you have to enjoy racing at each track on the schedule,” Gordon said. “But when asked which is my favorite track, I’d have to say it’s this one. You can race high, low and everywhere in between in the corners. And you can work the different lines based on how your car is handling.”
“It was a challenging race, just trying to get the balance of the car from one end to the next,” Gordon said. “And getting track position, so there was a lot on the pit crew.
“It was a challenging day, but it wouldn’t have taken but a few more things to make this great and a chance to win. We’re real happy with today, to get a top-five. It was a good points day, and we know that we’re way behind that 11, and we’ve got some work to do there.”
Tony Stewart [No. 14 Chevy]
“It’s so wide and there are so many lines that you can run—that’s what makes Michigan fun for drivers,” Stewart said. “The drivers can really help themselves out if they don’t have a car that’s working right. You can literally race from the white line on the apron all the way to the wall. That’s the groove. You can move around on the racetrack and find a spot that helps your car do what you need it to do.”
“That’s the best car we’ve had in a long time, so I’m really proud of our guys,” Stewart said. “We’re definitely gaining on it. I felt racy today. We just keep plugging away and doing what we do.
“I'm not as panicked about the top 12 right now as I think some of the guys that are close to that bubble. We've just got to keep going out and if we keep riffling off top fives like this, we won't have to worry about it. We'll be there.”
Jimmie Johnson [No. 48 Chevy]
“I feel like we have been snake-bit at Michigan a few times here lately,” Johnson said. “Years before that we have had some fuel mileage things that have come in to play that have kept us out of victory lane. I would love to shorten that list of tracks that we haven’t won on with the No. 48 team.”
“We didn’t run as well as we wanted to run obviously, but we did learn some stuff that we can use later on in the year,” Johnson said. “The No. 11 certainly can be the champion at the end of the year. I think it is too early to really form an opinion for anyone, we still have 10-11 races before the Chase even starts. But you can’t deny the victories.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. [No. 88 Chevy]
"Michigan is a fun track,” Earnhardt said. “It's wide, and you'll find a lot of side-by-side racing. You can move around. If the top doesn't work then you can run the bottom. I enjoyed running there, and we seem to have had some success there."
"I enjoyed the car all day,” Earnhardt said. “Lance (McGrew, crew chief) and the AMP Energy team did a good job all weekend. We were happy in race trim. We just didn't have any speed in qualifying. It was fun to drive. I just want to thank all my sponsors and the team and everybody back at the shop. The engines are great and the cars are bullet-proof. This is the kind of run we want to have. We can do it.”
Photo credit: Dwight Drum @ Racetake.com