NASCAR Daytona Notebook: TRD Boss Revels In Toyota’s First Daytona 500 Victory

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Denny Hamlin turns a celebratory burnout following victory in Sunday's Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

Denny Hamlin turns a celebratory burnout following victory in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway (Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dave Wilson didn’t mince words.

“This is very difficult for me to put in words,” said the president of Toyota Racing Development. “I cannot articulate adequately what this means to Toyota.

“I’ll start by saying it’s our single biggest race in our company’s history. I’ll put it in front of the Indy 500, which was a pretty special one back in 2003.”

After entering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2007, Toyota won its first championship at NASCAR’s highest level last year on the strength of Kyle Busch’s remarkable comeback from a racing accident that caused him to miss the first 11 races of the season.

With Denny Hamlin’s victory on Sunday, Toyota now has its first Daytona 500.

“This is the greatest race in America,” Wilson said. “For our company to have won it makes it that special. I think most of you have heard the reason that we came into the sport was to connect with the American fans, to talk about how we build every Camry in America.

“Camry was named the most American made car. So I still remember what resonated my first time here in 2007, this moniker: the Great American Race. As we were looking at why we should come into NASCAR, that was a big part of it, to have a shot at winning the Great American Race, to be able to talk to the incredible, powerful fan base that NASCAR has.

“How do you quantify the value? It’s truly stunning and special.”


Kevin Harvick had the right idea.

The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion believed the late-race pushing and shoving would get the outside lane moving for the first time in Sunday’s Daytona 500.

That’s exactly what happened. But as Harvick was making a run to the front, Denny Hamlin slid his No. 11 Toyota in front of Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet and rode the momentum to the front of the field, ultimately winning the Great American Race by .010 seconds over Martin Truex Jr.

Harvick finished fourth behind Hamlin, Truex and Kyle Busch. That he was in the mix at the end is a credit to his formidable talent, given that Harvick made a brilliant save on Lap 18 when his car turned sideways in Turn 4.

“I wanted to be the first car in that outside line, because I really thought they would really start pushing and shoving like they did and finally get some momentum coming toward the end of the race,” Harvick said.

“Denny saw that momentum and was able to jump up in front of us. You look at our day—that first big slide. We could have been on the wrecker pretty early in this race.”


If he had to do it over again, Matt Kenseth might have stayed in line in front of Martin Truex Jr., rather than moving up the track to try to block Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.

But Kenseth had to make a split-second decision, and he moved into the outside lane in the final corner of Sunday’s Daytona 500. But Hamlin dived to the inside, and Kenseth nearly wrecked before regaining control of his car.

Hamlin went on to win the race, and Kenseth, who had led for most of the final lap rolled home in 14th.

“There’s a million things you could do differently, but I did what I thought I should do at the time to try to win,” Kenseth said. “We finished terrible, but that was the move I thought I had to make to try to preserve the win. He (Hamlin) had such a big run, he was going to go right around me in my opinion anyway, and Turn 4 was treacherous on the bottom.

“I didn’t think we were in a good spot to try to win it with his run, so I was trying to get in front of him. Unfortunately, his run happened pretty late in the straightway and he had the whole width of the corner to make a move, and he was able to cross back over and get under me.”

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