Bristol: Hamlin - Friday media visit

DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX GROUND IMPALA SS TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT TODAY'S PRACTICE SESSION AND HOW THE IMPALA SS DROVE, IF THERE IS A MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUALIFYING AND RACE TRIM AND IF HE'S AVOIDED THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP THIS SEASON. HAMLIN...

DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX GROUND IMPALA SS TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT TODAY'S PRACTICE SESSION AND HOW THE IMPALA SS DROVE, IF THERE IS A MAJOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUALIFYING AND RACE TRIM AND IF HE'S AVOIDED THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP THIS SEASON.

HAMLIN POSTED THE FASTEST TIME DURING TODAY'S FIRST PRACTICE SESSION WITH A TIME OF 15.484. ONE YEAR AGO HE ALSO POSTED THE FASTEST TIME HERE AT THE FIRST PRACTICE SESSION WITH A LAP TIME OF 15.491.

ON PRACTICE TODAY: "Actually I didn't know that (his practice stats). Yeah, we were pretty good. We just kind of kept up with the times. We took our time and stayed in qualifying trim for most of the practice. When a guy would go out there and beat us we would go out there and beat him. We just kind of eased into it a little bit and kind of saw where we stood out. Definitely no room for error there. I think we were three hundredths slow we were going to be sixth. We don't have the gap that we had on the guys in testing. A few teams have caught up so I think we'll definitely have to be on our game."

IN TERMS OF STRICT DRIVEABILITY, WAS IT EXACTLTY WHAT YOU EXPECTED OR WERE THERE SUBTLE DIFFERENCES THAT YOU WEREN'T QUITE READY FOR? "No, it was pretty much what I was expecting. To tell you the truth, they really drive a lot like the cars that we were currently running. There's really not much difference from my standpoint other than that I can see a little bit more. Other than that, everything seems to be pretty much the same. It's going to be other race tracks like Loudon and what not before we really see a difference in how we feel."

ARIC ALMIROLA HAS MADE A RAPID ASCENT FROM LATE MODELS UP THROUGH THE RANKS MUCH LIKE YOU DID. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HIS CAREER? "Well Aric comes from a very similar background racing the late models. He's actually from Tampa, Florida, the same place I was born so we're very similar. We raced against each other in late models a little bit. He was coming in as I was going out. He's definitely one of the up-and-coming drivers at Gibbs. It's exciting to have guys that got good talent and that can give us good feedback. That's what we kind of rely on him for right now, good testing notes. And when he's my teammate on Saturdays I can definitely rely on what he says because I've got all the faith in the world in him."

IS THERE GOING TO BE A GREAT DEAL OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RACE TRIM AND QUALIFYING TRIM WITH THE NEW SPLITTER AND WING? "No, especially at this race track there's not a whole lot of difference. We spent testing all in race trim and today all in qualifying and really the cars drove no different. Usually there is a pretty distinct gap between qualifying and race trim. There are a lot of things we'd change. We came here that way but then we started backing out and getting closer and closer to where we were in race trim and got faster so I'm pretty excited that there's not a big transition from one to the other. That way if you qualify well you should race well."

SITTING EIGHTH IN THE POINTS RIGHT NOW, IS IT TOO EARLY TO TELL IF YOU'VE AVOIDED THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP? "Yeah, I don't know. There are a lot of race tracks like last weekend where we ran horrendous. It was a terrible weekend for us, probably the worst race I've ever run in the Cup Series. We were able to salvage a 19th-place finish after running mid-30s most of the day. We've haven't hit our stride back on those race tracks. We've still improved on every finish that we finished for the first four races from last year to this year. So we're making gains, we just haven't hit the stride at really the good race tracks for us yet. The first four tracks are probably the worst four for me except for maybe Dover thrown in there. Once we got past those, we knew that coming here and going to Martinsville, those are the tracks that we're going to be able to excel on."

ON THE NEW RACE CAR: "They're going to change the current car around in probably in the next three years. I'm not going to say they don't really look any different and once we run them but I think once we run them in race conditions and we see what can be improved on I think it's going to be an evolving car that's just going to keep changing."

WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL CHANGE? "I'm sure they're going to update more safety things. They may change something on the bodies of them to make them where they handle better in a pack. It's hard to say because we haven't really run full-bore with this thing."

DO YOU THINK THE BUSCH CAR AND THE CUP CAR WILL NOW HANDLE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT? "Yeah, well that's why we chose not to run the Busch race this week. It's because we felt like we'd do better just to focus on the new car. We did that last week and it turned out to be a terrible race. So I don't know, it's tough to say whether it's an advantage or disadvantage to run the Busch race. This is just one of the weekends where I felt like the two drove too differently so I chose to sit the Busch race out."

-credit: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup