Daytona is called the “Great American Race.” A 500-mile, 200-lap contest under the Florida sun, the race is the kickoff to the NASCAR cup series. The crown-jewel of racing, Daytona 500 is the biggest race of the season, and it comes at the very start, setting the agenda for the rest of the year—defend or challenge. Toyota’s Cup Series Camrys are the car to beat, as the team looks for its third straight checkered flag in Daytona Beach.
Leading that team of six drivers is two-time reigning champ Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 car. Another title would give Hamlin his fourth title in six years and cement his status as one of the best finishers at Daytona in NASCAR history. Right there with him is a talented field including two-time Cup series champion, and teammate, Kyle Busch.
So, before each track-ready racecar heads to the starting line, check them out here. Once the flag goes down, their splashy paint schemes will be colorful blurs. To find out what each car’s driver is thinking before getting into the cockpit, read on.
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota Camry
“This is a big opportunity for us and my team and myself personally. I never would have imagined that we’d be in this position, especially five years ago. I always think about all the ones that slipped away that I had in control and didn’t make the right decision at the end to finish it off. It would be by far my biggest victory of my career and one that I probably wouldn’t exchange for anything.”
Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota Camry
“The whole No. 18 M&M’s team with [crew chief] Ben [Beshore] and all my guys, it’s going to take a little bit of time to get used to. But there’s not a whole lot of time. It’s just get in and go, so it’ll be interesting to see how all that plays out.”
Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Toyota Camry
“It’s a tough race to win. We’ve been really close. The biggest thing is trying to figure out a way to get to the end of the race. Every time we make it to the end of one of these speedway races, we’re in the hunt and we have a chance. But we’re still working on how to be better with technique and moves, understanding the draft and how it works with the car, because it changes each year.”
Christopher Bell, No. 20 Toyota Camry
“It’s been a lot of fun to transition back to the Cup side of JGR [Joe Gibbs Racing]. Chris Sherwood was my car chief on the Xfinity side, and he’s on this 20 group too, so between him, Adam Stevens, and everyone on this 20 car. I’m just trying to get to know everyone and build those relationships. It’s been quite the offseason, and I’m excited to get going to the racetrack, week-in and week-out.”
Bubba Wallace, No. 23 Toyota Camry
“There’s a lot of positive momentum for us. I’m excited about it. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity. I don’t know if I’ve said that enough. This has been what I’ve wanted for so long, to go out and try to prove a point, that, ‘Hey, I belong and we’re going to go out and compete and contend and become a household name on the racetrack.”
Ty Dillon, No. 96 Toyota Camry
“Gaunt Brothers Racing has given me a great opportunity to compete in the Daytona 500 and I couldn’t be happier. I love superspeedway races and the Daytona 500 is the biggest of them all.”
Originally published February 12, 2021