Hamlin - Friday media visit

Bristol 500

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

What did you learn during the first practice session? “Just worked on mostly race trim until right there at the end. It’s hard to say. We’re going to be dealing with a different race track here when we go to qualify. Obviously, the sun is breaking through now. What everyone is practicing is going to be a little bit different from what we have later on today. We chose not to work too much on qualifying because of that reason. Hopefully, it pays off on Sunday.”

Does the new points system magnify a bad day? “I think in the long run consistency is what’s going to pay more than ever for this points system, I believe. If you finish in the high teens then that’s as good as a win or a 40th-place finish. It’s a little different for sure. It pays to be consistent, which we feel like we’re a pretty consistent race team throughout the year. Then at the end of the season when we feel like we need to turn it up then we feel like we can. It does make you a little scared of those bottom finishes because it’s tough to look at your points day and say you go into a weekend with 400 points and you’ve just spent three days at a race track and you come out three points better than what you started. You might as well have just stayed home. It’s a hard hit when you don’t get but a few points, especially single digits.”

Did you have any tire issues in practice? “We did. We ran about 30 laps. I think we ran longer than anyone -- laps wise or close to it. We had the right-rear cording up. Very similar to what looks like some Nationwide cars had. We’ve had some good tires here. I did some tire testing here last year and we had some pretty good options. It definitely feels like it’s a little bit different than that. Not sure why. I think we’ve had these issues at Dover before and they’ve changed the tire a few times. I think they’re just trying a new tire for whatever reason and it definitely doesn’t look like it’s rubbering up the race track. Hopefully, it will and we don’t have any rain. Rain would definitely put a damper on the weekend.”

How are drivers that need to make up points viewing this weekend’s race? “I don’t look at it really any different. I look at it as another place that we can possibly win. There’s definitely some anxiety for some guys. I can’t speak for like Jeff Burton and those guys that have had a tough couple races, but it’s tough to come here and know that we need to make up some points. Yet this is a race track where you can find trouble very easily. I’m pretty confident in the position that we’re in right now, especially this early in the year. I’m sure I can rest a little bit easier.”

What has been your missing ingredient to win at Bristol? “I know a fuel pump issue twice kept me from winning. I think I’ve led on the last lap here twice and not won the race. It’s just been one of those race tracks that has been really, really tough for me to break through. We’ve run extremely well at this track and just never had it all put together to win a race here. This track and Atlanta -- other than the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, the big races. This one and Atlanta are two race tracks where I’ve come extremely close and I really want to win at extremely bad this year. This is one of two opportunities I’ve got to get it done.”

Do you feel like you have the engine issues behind you and do you know what went wrong? “I don’t feel like we’ve been aggressive at all with our packages. We don’t know whether we got it all sorted out until we all run a full race and we have no issues and do that for an extended period of time. I’m not sure that it’s just JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). The Toyota camp in general or TRD (Toyota Racing Development) -- we’ve got obviously some work to do, but we’ve got some of the smartest guys in the world working on those engines. I have no doubt that by Chase time and everything, everything is going to be ironed out and we’ll be good to go. This is your experimental time of the year. This is where you try new parts and pieces and I don’t know whether that’s the case for ours necessarily. I do know that a lot of teams use this time to try different things.”

Do you have any thoughts on why the Joe Gibbs Racing cars have struggled this year? “I think I’m in championship form. Look at where I was last year. I’ll be honest with you, I hadn’t finished better than 22nd after five races. I’m definitely on track, I feel like, for what we do early in the year. We talk about this every year. Just our car, but we never really perform at the beginning of the year -- we never do for whatever reason and we just seem to hit our stride later. As far as the other cars, I think that Joey (Logano) has run better than he’s finished. I’ve looked at his stats and I definitely know that he’s run better than that. He’ll make his way back -- I think he’ll be one of those guys that’s going to be fighting for a Chase spot in the end. I think he’s going to be there. Kyle (Busch) is obviously going to go out there and he’s going to win races here and there and be strong week in and week out. Kyle’s had engine trouble -- when you have one week like say Kyle had with the blown engine last week. It just looks terrible on the overall spread of things because we’ve only run three weeks and that’s a third of the season. We know the law of averages is going to average all that out. I’m not really too concerned. Last year I think Joey was probably our flagship car for the first six or seven races. He finished better than me and Kyle pretty much every week. By the end of the season we started to figure it out. I think it’s just part of the make-up of this race team. We’ve seen it with Tony Stewart for years and years.”

-source: toyota motorsports

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags bristol, hamlin, nascar, sprint cup, toyota