TEAM CHEVY DRIVERS DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX MONTE CARLO SS and CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS MONTE CARLO SS met with reporters in the infield Media Center and discussed the upcoming '07 season, when both drivers will shed their rookie...
TEAM CHEVY DRIVERS DENNY HAMLIN, NO. 11 FEDEX MONTE CARLO SS and CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS MONTE CARLO SS met with reporters in the infield Media Center and discussed the upcoming '07 season, when both drivers will shed their rookie stripes. Hamlin was the 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, won both Pocono races, and finished third in the NASCAR Nextel Cup standings. Bowyer was the highest finishing rookie eight times.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO 2007?
HAMLIN: "We're pretty confident about where we're at in this stage of the season. It's tough to tell how Gibbs as a whole is going to be this season until we get to the Vegas test and can get an idea of how we stack up on the 1.5-mile race tracks. But everything is looking good so far. This is probably one of the best speedweeks Gibbs had had probably ever as far as where we're at time-wise versus the other guys. So we've tended in the past to close the gap on guys from testing to race weekend, so hopefully if that trend continues, we should be pretty good."
YOU HAD AN AMAZING YEAR LAST YEAR. ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT HAVING AS GOOD A YEAR THIS TIME? LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED TO CARL EDWARDS?
HAMLIN: "He really didn't have that bad of a season. He still competed to be in the Chase at one point in the season. He didn't get that win, but he was really competitive there toward the end of the year. A slump is more a team as a whole. Roush was really on top of their game in Carl's so-called rookie year. And they didn't perform as well last year and it showed through the whole program. You just have to minimize those peaks and valleys you're going to have as a race team. Gibbs has done a good job of that in maintaining a steady level. There are going to be ups and downs. Sometimes things are right. Other times things are wrong. That's just mental stuff. If you're going to make it and your car is good, you're going to perform well. Luck is going to happen. We had good luck last year. We could all fall apart and have bad luck this year. Still, we can bounce back from anything."
YOU TALKED ABOUT THE GROWTH OF GIBBS. WHAT ABOUT YOUR GROWTH AND HOW DO YOU THINK YOU'VE IMPROVED AT PLACES LIKE DAYTONA AND THE 1.5-MILES?
HAMLIN: "The superspeedways were definitely my Achilles' heel last year. Everything sort of went in the Bud Shootout last year. I think I crashed in every single one of them except one. I just got involved in something because I was running mid-pack. I just could never get to the front. Improving on superspeedways, you know you can run up front with an average car; a decent car. I need to learn more in the draft and that's just going to come with time and years and more races. If they keep me around long enough, hopefully I'll get better and better."
WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE COT (IMPALA SS) AND HOW IT HANDLES COMPARED TO THE CAR OF TODAY (MONTE CARLO SS)?
HAMLIN: "I drove it during the Charlotte test right after the Coca-Cola 600. They've changed a lot on them since then. The guys who ran the Michigan test could probably have a better idea of it. It wasn't that much different. In about a year or so, we won't remember this car or the car we're running. It'll be all we know. It's a big deal now, but I think it's going to be a fairly easy transition. The racing is good the way it is now in my opinion. Anything safety-wise, is a step in the right direction. I'm all for it. I don't have too many bad habits so hopefully I'll take over to the car of tomorrow being that I've only run one year with these cars. I don't think the racing is going to be that much different. It's just going to look different."
CLINT BOWYER, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS MONTE CARLO SS JOINS THE CONFERENCE:
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO THE 2007 SEASON?
BOWYER: I'm excited. It's good to be back in the car down here. It's a pretty uneventful day, but it's all for a reason to come back here and run good. All the guys on the Jack Daniels Chevrolet have done a good job. Preparation has been key and that'll be even more important when we come back."
DURING THE WINTER, WERE THERE MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR GREAT '06 SEASON?
HAMLIN: "You definitely have a whole lot more opportunities. But you realize that last year at this time versus this year, I didn't know how long my racing career was going to last and how I was going to do in the Cup Series or be capable of doing it, I jumped on every opportunity I could to make a dollar - fly here, fly there trying to make some money. Yeah, you can turn down those things now because the time is worth more than the money ever will be I found out pretty quick. For me, it's a learning experience. You have to pay your dues. You've got to go out there and answer the media and not turn anything down for a while because you've got to earn your keep in this sport. These guys who are able to do that now have earned the right."
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU TESTED THE COT AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT?
BOWYER: "I haven't tested all that much. Poor Scott Wimmer at RCR has been doing a lot of testing for us. But Jeff Burton had a really good test. I'm kind of leaving it up to the guys with a lot of experience. Jeff and Kevin (Harvick) both have. So as far as experience on the car, there are a lot of unknowns there. But we haven't learned any bad habits in these cars yet. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be a long day in tech. But it'll be interesting. It'll be a headache for a while, but everybody will learn to adapt. They always do. NASCAR didn't get this far making bad decisions, so I'm sure it'll be another good decision." HAMLIN: "I didn't do any testing during the office. I disconnect my phone for a month or so. Just kidding. Aric Almirola is one of the development guys and has been doing a lot of the testing on the car of tomorrow for us. I haven't been in the car since Homestead."
DO YOU THINK MOMENTUM IS EASIER TO DUPLICATE FROM YEAR TO YEAR OR DO YOU START ALL OVER AGAIN?
HAMLIN: "No, I think you start all over again. It's so hard to stay on top in this sport because if you have a good year, you've got five or six really good teams with the same budget you have who are going to try to get to your level. When you're on top, you've got to find ways to stay on top and it's harder to do that than the guys who are going to be making gains right behind you. That's what the hard part about this sport is. Your team as a whole can be on top one year and just come back three months later and you can't hit a ball. It's just amazing. It's just part of this sport and that's why it's so competitive."
HAVE EITHER OF YOU LOST CONFIDENCE IN YOUR CAREER? DO YOU HAVE SPORTS PSYCOLOGISTS?
BOWYER: "I think confidence is definitely a big part of any sport. If you go out there knowing you can get the job done, nine times out of 10, you succeed. But as far as sports psychology, I met with one last year before the season, and hell I just felt stupid after that, so I try to stay out of there (laughs)."
HAMLIN: "I can't back that up. No way. You know it's more the physical part for me than anything. Tony (Stewart) got a guy to help him do the whole physical part and I did the same during the off season and I felt better than I have ever in just the short amount of time I've been doing it. To me, it's more about working on those last 100 laps of the race when you need to dig down and get the most out of yourself. I felt like I was kind of slack on it last year. We're just kind of working on that part of it."
-credit: gm racing