(Photo Credit: James Gilbert/Getty Images)
Press Release | TOYOTA RACING, POST PRACTICE QUOTES
LOS ANGELES (February 4, 2023) – Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Christopher Bell, Ty Gibbs and Denny Hamlin along with 23XI Racing drivers Tyler Reddick and Bubba Wallace were made available to media prior to practice for to the LA Clash event today:
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What has it been like to process the news that you may not be able to do a lot of outside racing moving forward, specifically dirt races?
“I feel like I need to clear the air a little bit. My comments definitely didn’t reflect my situation, my relationship with Joe Gibbs and you know, my standing with the team. Joe, himself, the entire Gibbs family has been nothing but helpful for me and inspiring for me. Joe has not mentioned any dislike for dirt track racing. The only thing was his wanting to keep me healthy whether that was racing or being out on the lake or anything. He just had my best interest in mind. I did a bad job of portraying that. I don’t know what the future holds for me dirt track racing, but my comments were not well put.”
How have your expectations for this season changed after your success of 2022?
“Last year was just such a learning curve and I keep harping on the fact that last year we didn’t have practice and qualifying in 2021 and then in 2022 it really allowed myself and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) to hone in on what I needed in the car to be successful. I hope that continues to get better and better. I think everyone will say that this weekend at the Clash, their car will be incredibly different than what they had here a year ago. I expect us to continue to gel and hopefully. Have more pace and more results. At the end of the year, our performance on track was matching our results a little bit better and hopefully we can continue that.”
TY GIBBS, No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How does it feel taking on this unique event and have you leaned on your teammates for advice?
“For sure, it’s really cool to be a part of that. I feel like most of my family grew up in Southern California so it’s cool to be out here. My cousins went to school right down the street. Pretty cool to be here and experience that. Definitely been leaning on these guys for advice and feel this will be a good weekend for our Toyotas.”
How did you feel you improved from your first start at Pocono through the rest of the season?
“Definitely a big jump there for sure and just getting more time in this car that’s so different. And the more times I was in it, I feel like I was learning and getting more used to how it handles and how it is. I think all the time was progression and just keep moving forward.”
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 SportClips Haircuts Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What are your expectations for 23XI for this season and what gains have you seen from the first season to today?
“As far as expectations, both making the Playoffs is a reasonable goal. Bubba (Wallace) will have to take a little bit of a jump to do that, but certainly the performance he had at the end of last year kind of showed what his potential is so I think both making the Playoffs. Then if they can make it into the Round of 12 and keep going then that’s going to be a pretty successful year for us. The difference in year one to now is just more employees, and certainly in the growing and building stage. Just a lot more team chemistry. We did have a very small group in year one and year two. We’ve continued to build on that each year, but really it’s just continuing to get better. I know it’s a cliché thing, but want to continue to see us move up in the standings and our drivers win more races. We won one in year one, two in year two so want to keep seeing that growth.”
As a team owner, what is the benefit to an event like this?
“The value is the location is the biggest thing. A lot of team sponsors are probably headquartered somewhere near here so there’s a value in activation that comes with that and it’s also valuable to introduce new fans to the sport. I think that with roughly 40 percent of the audience members that show up this weekend will be new to our sport. Just helps grow the sport in general. Pretty positive thing from that standpoint.”
How did you see Ty Gibbs grow in the NASCAR Cup Series last season while he was filling in driving the No. 45 Camry TRD?
“It really was a great advantage for him (Ty Gibbs) to get some seat time before his rookie season. Some of these tracks, he’s going to get to see for the second time and Chris Gayle (crew chief) has the notebook from our team that he’s going to be able to lean on and that feedback to make his cars better right from the get-go. So for me, from my standpoint in what I saw from him it was just steady progression of getting better and it doesn’t necessarily have to come with finishes, but with competitiveness. These guys are going to be fast. Something that’s important to me is having teammates that are very good and competitive because that’s more information that my team can use and with the giant jump that Christopher (Bell) took last year, that’s really helped all of our teams be better. Ty (Gibbs) will take time and it will take some patience there, but these guys have some speed and that’s certainly something I’m going to lean on to try to find out how I can be better myself.”
How do you feel about the changes made to the rear clip of the race car for this season and do you feel the teams had to give something up to have that change implemented?
“You’re always going to sacrifice something. Nothing comes for free. When you soften something, something else takes more load. The load is what it is so if something takes away from that, then something else gets it. I don’t think we really know exactly yet. I know through the test at COTA (Circuit of the Americas), there were some things shook loose in the back of the car that we didn’t necessarily plan for, but at the same time, this car is still really early in its stages that we’re just going to have to learn as we go. I don’t really have the answer of what it is that’s going to cause and effect because there will be some effect.”
Have you spoken with Kurt Busch about his health and if there are events he plans to participate in moving forward?
“Honestly, I haven’t asked him (Kurt Busch). He’s been traveling all over the place. He’s here this weekend helping our drivers out, but obviously we’re doing a third car in Daytona simply because we want to be prepared and want to be competitive if the day comes where he says he wants to race again.”
Could this race go from being an exhibition race to a points race?
“Sure. I think NASCAR whatever deems is important to them. I’m sure having a race in this area is very important with the talk of the two-mile oval in Fontana, you would have no more and they may be taking a year off while it rebuilds. Certainly I think they’re going to be open to options and maybe this does fall in that slot or we go somewhere else.”
BUBBA WALLACE, No. 23 DoorDash Toyota Camry, 23XI Racing
Where is your confidence after your performance at the end of 2022 and being in the battle for the owner’s championship?
“I would say this is the most excited I’ve been for a season to start just because of the momentum we have and all the changes we’ve made in the offseason. It’s shaping up to be hopefully our best year yet. We’ve been able to win the last two seasons, but at the wrong time. We didn’t win for the Playoffs and getting into the Playoffs, which our team is totally capable of doing now with people in the right place and mentalities now. The work efforts are there and I just need to go out and do my job and start this year off right. As much as this race is about bragging rights, the season starts today with practice and qualifying which shapes up everything. We can only hope now with the way that everything is structured with no practice or get practice, but it’s not like before where you could wholesale the car if you needed to. You hope to unload the car off the truck and it’s somewhat close so you can tinker with. It’s been fun working with Bootie and continue to grow with them and just push that leadership throughout our team.”
How big is it to have this race in Los Angeles and perform in front of a more diverse audience?
“I think it’s big and I think I said it at this time last year, but getting into a market where it’s so diverse and exposing our sport to eyeballs is important. We have to continue this trend whether it’s here in LA or we move it somewhere else, whatever it may be. I think this is a start of changing the face of NASCAR and it’s fun to be a part of. For me to just go out and compete and represent our sponsors and our team and we have MJ (Michael Jordan) watching and everybody knows who MJ is so have to do it right.”
Are you ready to get back to racing after the off-season?
“My wife and I had a great off-season, but there was no off-season because we were too busy getting married and then we went on our honeymoon. Then after we got back from our honeymoon, it was two weeks before this weekend. I felt like there was no time off and that Phoenix was just yesterday. I was busy for all the right reasons and we had a great time and now I’m a married man.”
TYLER REDDICK, No. 45 MoneyLion Toyota Camry, 23XI Racing
What has this transition to 23XI Racing been like for you?
“It’s been a huge one, but for everyone on the team side, everyone at Toyota has been really welcoming and inviting and really has made it feel like home very early on. Certainly as it all is shaping out, this is earlier than we thought it was going to happen, but really glad the switch happened when it did. The team’s got a lot of exciting things and we’re growing at a great pace. The vision that the ownership group has, that Denny (Hamlin) has, from the driver’s point of view and everyone they have put into place around the team. I’m really excited about this year and what this year is going to mean for me and for Bubba (Wallace) and really everybody that’s a part of the organization.”
Are you ready to get back to racing after the off-season? “Yeah, it’s been a really good off-season. I stayed really busy and Bubba (Wallace) had a lot going on too on the personal side of things that he had to take care of. A lot of preparation so time really flew by from my perspective and we got a lot of things done. The team really got to spend time the right way working on things. Certainly, all of us as we were coming in here were beyond ready and chomping at the bit to get back on the race track. Really excited about it and where the gains were made. Felt like what we had in the simulator was really, really close so we’ll see.”