NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference at Richmond International Raceway
An interview with: Denny Hamlin and Kasey Kahne
KERRY THARP: We're going to roll into our post race press conference here at Richmond. Our third-place finisher is Kasey Kahne.
...we definitely need to keep working to catch up to a few of these other guys.
Kasey, you had a fast car all weekend, fast car tonight. Congratulations. Your thoughts?
KASEY KAHNE: I felt really good about it. It was a tough track, the tire-and-track combination was slippery. Throughout the whole race we kept working on the car. The Red Bull team did a really nice job. They had great pit stops. We went the wrong way at one point, then went back. Seemed like we were getting better at the end.
The Gibbs guys were the guys to beat again here. We came to third, so that was good. I felt strong where we kind of ended up tonight, how things went, how things played out throughout the race. There's a lot of cars from that third to seventh, eighth, ninth, somewhere in there, that were probably pretty similar. You go a little bit here and there on some of the adjustment throughout the race.
Our guys did a really nice job. But we definitely need to keep working to catch up to a few of these other guys.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Kasey.
Q. Kasey, you really needed this one. Talk about how important it is and how your knee feels.
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I'd say it's good. We had a bad one at Martinsville, a bad one at Talladega. Just didn't run very well at Texas. So we've had three of them in a row. So we needed a good run tonight. We definitely did. We did it.
We hung up there throughout the whole race. Had to miss that wreck. Got a little bit lucky there. Cars could have went any direction there. We snuck through barely. Got a third.
My knee feels fine. It's actually a little bit tight, you know, a bit swelled up maybe. But other than that, it feels fine. I never thought about it once throughout the race. So it was more about the car. So if you're not thinking about it, it's obviously not hurting.
Q. Kasey, you're up front the entire race. Do you remember the last time you were up front and competitive for the entire time, what it felt like to actually be up there contending with those JGR guys?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I'd say at Phoenix we ran top 10 the whole race. Here we were more probably closer to fifth, sixth, right in there, third to sixth or seventh. We were a little bit better tonight for sure. But Phoenix was decent. Daytona, and Talladega at times.
Yeah, it's kind of been a while since we had a car that could win. At points tonight I felt like we had a shot. Early on, I thought I was driving away. I saw Denny in my mirror. Made me mad for a second.
It was a solid night for us.
KERRY THARP: Let's hear from our race runner-up, Denny Hamlin.
Denny, you were trying for that Trifecta this weekend. Certainly had a great showing out there tonight. Talk about it.
DENNY HAMLIN: It was a good night. We knew pretty early on, the 18 was going to be tough. It's tough when you share notebooks. You know those guys got exactly what you got. Every trick in the book on short tracks, those guys have it. Kyle has the talent. We knew they were going to be tough to beat. They're really good here in the spring race anyway. We're typically not as strong in the spring race.
It's all we had. My plan was to really conserve the first part of the last run and let him go out there and run. I was going to just kind of sit back and wait and save my tires. Just when I tried to make a run, I didn't have the grip I needed to close in enough.
It's good. We know we got some stuff to work on, but then again we had a big lead over third. Gibbs Racing, we got some good cars.
KERRY THARP: We'll open it back up for questions now for Denny and Kasey.
Q. Kasey, did you have any fuel concerns at the end of the race? How far off was the car?
KASEY KAHNE: Actually didn't have too many concerns with fuel. They told me to save. We had so many caution laps there, it was during that big wreck I think with Jeff on the backstretch. I saved the whole time. I thought if we were close before, I should easily be fine. It never concerned me after that.
The adjustment, we tried to get it to turn just a little bit better without making it any freer off the corner. It took the back out of the track. Then I was just kind of up out of the track more. It was worse. So we went down the next stop. It was probably only 50 laps. It wasn't one of the long green-flag runs that we did it on. It probably hurt us for six, seven spots.
Q. Denny, Kyle wouldn't say what it was, but he said he learned something from you in the race last fall. Do you know what he's talking about?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I opened my mouth. I should have never told him.
KASEY KAHNE: Will you tell me?
DENNY HAMLIN: No (laughter).
That's the thing. If I don't tell him the things I know on short tracks, the crew chiefs don't relay information, it's not a good team. Obviously we got paid back on the bigger intermediate tracks. I learned so much from him, talked to him.
Yeah, it might cost me a race here or there because he out runs me. In the grand scheme of things, it makes me an overall better driver.
No, I won't tell you (smiling).
Q. Denny, earlier in the week you talked about needing to figure out how to win in any division. After this weekend, especially tonight, is there any balance of the disappointment of not winning against how the rest of the weekend went?
DENNY HAMLIN: Not really. I mean, this is a total different level. It's a total different group of drivers and whatnot. As proud as I am of the wins that I had, I knew that it was going to be tenfold harder to do it on Saturday than it was Thursday and Friday.
Everyone's so smart inside that Cup garage, it's hard to keep up. It's so hard to keep it when you do have an edge. When I say I need to figure out how to win, I need to learn more tricks. I need to figure out more things to do to be better. That's what I got to do right now.
Q. I don't know if you were aware, but this race was pretty crazy from the standpoint of Montoya, Kurt Busch had a melt down, Truex fired his whole crew. The way you guys finished up front, it's sort of ho-hum. Are you aware of all this other stuff going on over the course of a race?
DENNY HAMLIN: I watch the screen. I don't like it. Every time Montoya has damage, you see who did it, they usually end up getting racked. You usually know that's coming. You have to realize, Montoya, I like him, I think he's a helluva driver, but you the can't wreck everyone every time you get in an accident. Accidents happen. Guys make mistakes. Why hold grudges? Makes it tough to get in the Chase, too.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: I think you can if it's around you. I didn't watch the screen, I didn't know there was one here. I didn't see it tonight. But, yeah, definitely things happen. If you want to get those points, you have to keep going as strong as you can.
Q. Denny, it's still early in the season. Do you think this could be a turning point for you and the team?
DENNY HAMLIN: I hope so. Usually it's about five, six races before we kind of get going. Maybe it's just this year, I don't know what race this is, about eight or so, maybe it's taken us a few extra races.
We know when we come to these racetracks we're going to be contenders for a win. I never even thought about one struggle that we had earlier in the year when we come here to Richmond. It's like, Okay, we should win, regardless of what's happened, how bad we ran up until this point. You forget about all that when you go to a racetrack that you have a lot of success. Hopefully this is the point in which we turn it around.
Q. Denny, you talked last night after the Nationwide win how you wanted this to be a snowball effect. What does it do to have a complete race where you run strong early and finish strong?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, it lets you know that it can happen, for sure. That's a good thing. We still had some minor struggles on pit road. We lost the lead early. We lost a lot of time early on pit road. But those guys rebounded and we had some great stops late. They made up for it. Really just had a solid weekend. No mechanical issues, engine issues or anything like that.
This is what we're capable of doing every single week if we put it all together.
This is what we're capable of doing every single week if we put it all together.
Q. Kasey, you talked about your strong run at Phoenix, good run here tonight. What does it mean looking ahead? You don't have those type of tracks coming up. What do you need to do to remain contenders, relevant?
KASEY KAHNE: I think that's something they're working on pretty hard at Red Bull ever since Texas. We kind of realized that we're not as good on some of those tracks where there's a lot of load in the front tires, things when you get into the corner, to keep the car turning throughout the race. That's something we've already started working on.
Darlington we're going to need to be better after that, Dover, Charlotte, the next four or five races. We've been looking at it. I thought we could run really well here. Now we need to make some good changes here before Darlington and Dover if we want to run good at those tracks.
Q. Denny, you talk about the things moving forward, what this could mean. How do you not leave this place pissed off that you didn't win?
DENNY HAMLIN: It's my best finish of the year. I'm ecstatic, to be honest with you. You can't be mad at second place. Yeah, I want to win, trust me. It burns that you didn't win. But how we didn't win I can live with.
KERRY THARP: Guys, thank you.