All-Star: Hamlin - Friday media visit

Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Freight Monte Carlo SS, Met With Members Of The Media At Lowe'S Motor Speedway For The Weekly Top-12 Behind The Hauler Chat. Hamlin Talked About Personnel Changes To His Pit Crew, Comments He Made In Darlington, The...

Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Freight Monte Carlo SS, Met With Members Of The Media At Lowe'S Motor Speedway For The Weekly Top-12 Behind The Hauler Chat. Hamlin Talked About Personnel Changes To His Pit Crew, Comments He Made In Darlington, The Morale Of His Team, His Role As A Leader With The No. 11 Team And Other Topics.

ON WHAT HIS TEAM HAS DONE THIS YEAR TO CONTINUE THE MOMENTUM THEY BUILT LAST YEAR: "The biggest thing is we ended last year on a good note. We used the motivation from all season to make the Chase and we used that as our motivation."

ON IF ANY DRIVERS ARE SAYING THE ALL-STAR RACING ISN'T SO GREAT FOR THEIR TEAM SINCE A LOT LEAVE WITH WRECKED RACE CARS: "Well it's a lot of fun because we get to go as hard as we can but the biggest thing is it puts a little stress on the teams because they know that they have a car out there that may not be able to come back to the race shop. I don't know, I think it's a pretty good atmosphere and I like the way it's set out. This will be my first one so we'll see how it works."

DO YOU LIKE THIS TRACK BASED ON YOUR TEAM'S STRATEGY? "Well I don't know, the track's never been too good to me. It's probably my second worst race track other than Dover. I've wrecked one in testing. This car right here is a car that we can afford to wreck so we'll see if we can hopefully give it all or bring back nothing."

ON HIS SATISFACTION WITH THE CHANGES TO HIS PIT CREW: "I'm glad everything's done. It's just something that's been ongoing for the end of last year all the way to now. It just now reared its ugly head. We felt like we could deal with it before because we weren't contending for wins like we are now. Everyone has kind of stepped up their game this year and the pit crew has kind of just stayed where they were. They could ring off great stops and we could give up good track position spots on weekends. We feel like in order to be a championship contending team all around we needed to make the changes that way by the time the Chase starts we're going to be full speed ahead."

ON GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START IN THE ALL-STAR RACE AND GETTING A GOOD QUALIFYING SPOT: "I think it's just motivation for those guys. A lot's been made that I was putting down my crew, which is not the case at all. I was very frustrated in the way things went down at the end of that race but I also admitted that I gave away a race or two. It's interesting to see what gets put out in the papers. It's always the negatives and not the positives but I think they're going to take that as motivation. You'll probably see them have one of the quickest stops tonight."

DID YOU GET ANY BACKLASH FROM YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR PIT CREW? "No, I've talked to all the guys and everybody's upbeat about it. A lot of the guys, all we've done is just move them around. Two of the guys are no longer on the pit crew but the same guys are working in the shop and preparing my race cars...it is all about putting people in the right position, the carriers and the changers making sure they get along and in the long run this is going to work out to be better."

ON THE CURRENT MORALE OF HIS TEAM: "The morale's high. We constantly do things to motivate each other every single week. When I do something wrong they let me know. That motivates me to do better and I think it's going to be the same for them."

DO YOU REGRET YOUR COMMENTS FROM DARLINGTON? DO YOU THINK ANY OF YOUR COMMENTS CAME OUT TOO HARSH? SHOULD SOME OF THOSE COMMENTS BEEN SAID TO THE TEAM RATHER THAN IN FRONT OF THE MEDIA? "In turn maybe but I feel like I'm going to say exactly the way I feel whether I'm on camera or not. Like I said, I think those guys will use it as motivation and it was not meant to hurt team morale, more to just (say) 'Let's step up here.' It's time to step up if we're going to be winners and championship contenders. It's time everyone steps up including me. There's many race tracks where I'm not nearly as good as what I should be. When I make mistakes I'll call myself out on that. I think it was the time and place to say it."

WHY SAY IT NOW? "It was frustrating because you don't stay on top of things very long in this sport. There's waves of success and I feel like we've had a really good wave these last two months and just haven't capitalized and got a win and unfortunately with this sport winning is just about everything. When it comes to the Chase the way they formatted it, it doesn't matter if we're leading the points if we don't have a win we could be 12th. That means a lot. Last year we score more points in the Chase than any other driver but we started too far behind and that's what I didn't want to happen this year was to start 50 points behind, score the most points, have the best finish average but we didn't get a win so we're not champions. That's what I don't want to happen at the end of the year."

HOW LONG HAVE YOU FELT WHAT YOU ARE FEELING? HOW LONG HAVE YOUR FRUSTRATIONS BEEN THIS WAY? "Well there's been a lot of situations this year. There's been Martinsville where we've had lugnuts fall off. Phoenix we had lugnuts fall off. There's just been a lot of things going on this year within the team and the best way to make things better is to change the chemistry with the guys. People do it all time within teams. Hendrick and Roush, those guys totally switched teams so we're just changing a very small aspect of what makes that car go faster every week."

WERE YOU LOSING CONFIDENCE WHEN YOU PULLED IN TO YOUR PIT? "Yeah, I mean a little bit. A little bit was a loss of confidence but for the most part I knew that if we could just maintain. I don't care if I gain any spots or anything like that. If we could just maintain we were going to be OK. We just can't afford to give up those big spots like we did last weekend."

IS THERE ANY KIND OF JEALOUSY IN THE GARAGE OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS' DOMINANCE THIS SEASON OR DO YOU TRY TO MODEL YOURSELF AFTER THEM? "Really you model yourselves after them. They've done everything right. They've got great cars week in and week out. Even though they may not have the best cars they do the best with them and they don't make mistakes and that's what got them the wins that they got. They've capitalized on people like myself and the 20 and different guys making mistakes on pit road or on the race track. You've got to give them credit. They're not making mistakes when it really counts."

ON HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS HAVING GOOD TIMING: "They're running well when it counts and it seems like they're getting their cars better and better as the races go on. They're really working well and it's something that Gibbs and myself are modeling ourselves after is the Hendrick teams."

ON MANY DRIVERS ATTENDING THE PIT CREW CHALLENGE WHILE HE DID NOT TO AVOID A BAD APPEARANCE WITH HIS CREW: "It was a lot of people in different positions and a couple new guys and I was one of the only drivers to show up last year. I had other obligations. I could not make it. I heard they did well and were really looking good and no penalties, which is good. That'll mean a lot come tonight for qualifying."

ON HIS TEAM HAVING NO PENALTIES: "That was one of the best things I heard all night was that there were no penalties. That just shows the focus of these guys that they're stepping it up. By having no penalties they're very aware. I think if they would have had penalties it would have just been more questions. It just shows that those guys are already stepping up."

ON HOW HE HAS GROWN THIS YEAR BY FEELING COMFORTABLE TO BE MORE VOCAL: "Basically I've stepped up, Mike (Ford) has stepped up, everyone at the shop has gotten better. The body guys have gotten better. The motor has gotten better. The only thing that hasn't gotten better is our pit crew. Not saying skill wise but when it comes down to the pressure situations we weren't stepping up to the level that we needed to. That's why we felt like we needed to make a change to see if we could get some of that chemistry back."

ON THE ROLE OF BEING A DRIVER AND A TEAM LEADER AND THE FINE LINE BETWEEN SPEAKING OUT AND SPEAKING OUT TOO MUCH: "I think Mike (Ford) has kind of taken that role of being the team leader. Last week during the race he sat them all down and gave him his two cents worth. A couple pit stops later was when we had that real bad one. I think guys were getting nervous. They felt like. Look if we're in contention to win this race, if we're going to do it we need to be better and not make mistakes. I think that got in their heads a little bit and caused some problems. For the most part my pit crew has been great every weekend it just seems like it (the errors) shows up more when it really counted."

ON LEARNING HIS ROLE AS A LEADER ON THE TEAM AND BEING A YOUNGER DRIVER: "I feel like I'm definitely one of the guys that they look to to be a confidence booster or anything like that. I'll sit here in a team meeting and I'll talk to them and I'll tell them this weekend that nothing was meant personal to them but I feel like they're better than that and in order to be better than that it's going to take a lot of practice and guys being moved around. We felt like we had to make that decision. If I don't perform as a driver then eventually they're going to be looking for a new driver. It all goes full circle."

ON IF DALE EARNHARDT JR. WOULD BE A GOOD FIT AT JOE GIBBS RACING AND IF HE WOULD PUSH FOR HIM TO BE CONSIDERED FOR A TEAMMATE? "I think everyone knows my relationship with Junior, off the race track it's very good. Him on Tony's (relationship) is very good on the race track so I think it would make a great fit. He'd bring a lot to Gibbs. Whether he's even interested or not, we don't even know."

ON IF THE BIG PICTURE AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON IS THE 26 RACES TO THE CHASE OR IF IT'S THE ENTIRE SEASON: "Right now we're thinking 26/10. Right now we're looking and we might as well be 12th in points because we have zero wins. That's the way they formatted it and everyone complained because wins didn't mean enough. We're getting further and further behind but when that Chase starts that's how many more points we've got to make up than the rest of the guys. The way that they're not making mistakes, we need to be on a level playing field come Chase time. If we're down 50, 60 points it's going to be really hard to make up so that's kind of where the frustration comes from."

HAVE YOU HEARD ANY BOOS YET? "No, not really."

WHEN YOU WERE A LOCAL RACER WINNING ALL THE TIME DID YOU GET BOOED? "Yeah, it seems like all the winners get booed. I wouldn't mind having a few every now and then. That means that you're doing something good, you're making other fans upset that they're driver isn't winning. For the most part I've had a large support from my fan base. I'm actually pretty surprised and even Dick Berggren said to me 'Man, you've got way to many cheers.' I said 'From what I've accomplished I feel like I've gotten way too many.' I've got a good fan base and hopefully I can keep them."

DOES IT STING WHEN YOU DO GET BOOED? "No, it's really confidence. For us we look at predictions and use that as kind of our motivation. If you get booed that's more motivation. I think the fan response motivates more than anything.

"It never did (bother me). You know when you get in that car you got a job to do and you got to do it to your full ability. The only way to do that is to give it your all."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin