DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
How was practice? "We're pretty pleased with it. Feels very similar to what we had here in July, and it's still early to tell because you've got two more practices left before we actually go racing."
Are you confident here after your previous finishes in New Hampshire? "That obviously gives you a ton of confidence. By the stats, it's one of my best race tracks. I know that everyone talks about all the wins they could have, but I just -- handfuls of wins I feel like we should have that we don't for simple, little mistakes. When we come back here, we know that we did have the best car here in July. We didn't finish it off, but those are mistakes that we all learn from. So as long as we don't have that flub again there's no reason why we still won't be in contention with 50 laps to go again."
Why do you expect to win? "I've had confidence before and I said at Pocono and different race tracks and said, 'I expect to win' -- and it's no different. Given our history here, given how we ran the first practice and hopefully how we run tomorrow, I'll expect to win. If I don't win then I feel like something has happened to hamper us. But, like I said a million times, this is not about the best driver in the fastest car anymore. If it was, we would have had three wins going into the Chase and we would have finished fourth in Chicago and still had the point lead, but instead we're 15 (points) back because this is a team sport. There's so many variables to racing these days -- it's the weather, it's the cautions, it's the tires, the motor staying together, the pit crew and the gas -- those things are just impossible to handicap, so you don't know. As much as you say, 'That's the best car,' it's not a guarantee anymore."
Did you send the Tweet about winning New Hampshire to rally your fans? "Like I said, I said it as basically another way to say, 'We'll get them next week' -- basically to my fans to know that I wasn't getting down on Chicago. I'm more looking forward to New Hampshire than I was harping on Chicago."
How did your team react to the Chicagoland race? "They were probably more disappointed than I was. I know Scott (Wood, gas man) came up to me afterwards and just was -- he was upset. It's weird to see a man that size get upset as much as he was, but for me it kind of makes you put your arm around him and be like, 'It's alright, dude. It's okay. We'll make it up. This is just a bump in the road towards hopefully a championship run.' I got texts from probably over half of the guys saying, 'We appreciate what you said about Scott, because he was down in the dumps.'"
Was there any reaction to your prediction of a New Hampshire win? "No, not at all. I think that they saw it the same way I did is that I was just basically exciting my fans for the following week instead of having them so bummed over how we finished last week."
Were your fans or team disappointed after the Chicagoland race? "No. I think that they know what we've got in our race car. They know what I'm capable of on these types of race tracks and so I guarantee if you asked each and every one of my team guys they'll say, 'We expect to win.'"
Does information from the July race transfer to this Chase race at New Hampshire? "Pretty similar. It will. Everything is pretty similar, but I feel like we have room for improvement with our race car when we came here in July. So, those things we're working on right now. We were doing wholesale packages when we came here in July and so we didn't get to tune the actual package that we raced, so now we know that that's the fastest. We've just got to figure out how we can make it better, so that's all we did here this first practice."
How do mistakes affect you? "When you see highlights, it frustrates you because you're like -- it looks so bad where we're at. It's like, 'We didn't run that way. We were right there with those guys,' and so, yeah, it's frustrating, but literally right when you get in the race car for the next week it's like, 'What happened last week? I don't even remember.' I'm glad to finally get back in the race car."
Can you take anything away from last week in Chicagoland? "I think it's another learning thing. It seems like we always find the freak mistakes and accidents that can happen within a team and what can happen with your car and we just found another one. Basically, now we know what our priority is on the last stop. He (Scott Wood, gas man) knows that. He knew it. He was trying to do his best to get the adjustments that Darian (Grubb, crew chief) wanted. I think he was in a tough spot. He didn't want to disappoint the crew chief with not having the adjustment, but ultimately there's three things you need to finish the race -- you need fuel, tires and a motor. We all know that now."
Why has Dover been a challenge? "I think a lot of it is because it's concrete. I think the concrete surface itself just throws me a loop and I don't have a good feel in my ass for concrete. I don't know. We got better at Bristol, so hopefully what we learned there will transfer over to Dover."
Is everyone spotting Jimmie Johnson a race when we go to Dover? "That's why Chicago was a bit disappointing, because we wanted to maintain or extend our lead there and then when we come here -- where nothing is a given, because of all of the circumstances that can happen -- we looked to extend our lead here and then damage control at Dover. Well, if we have a bad race here then it's like, 'Gosh, at best we're hoping to just maintain at Dover.' You are spotting, but I think that there's just more cars to race than the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) this particular Chase. I think, in my opinion, there's probably five to six guys that are really going to be strong at every race track. Yeah, it is tough. But it's no different than when everyone goes to Martinsville and they know that okay, the 48 and the 11 -- you're not going to gain a whole lot of points on them that race unless something bad happens to them. I think it's tough from my aspect that I have one weak race track in the Chase, but it's just part of it. I hope to excel that much better on my personal race tracks."
Could you talk yourself out of a good finish at Dover? "No, not really because every Chase that we've been fast, we've found a way to finish top-10 there. We did it in 2010. Qualifying will be key -- very key for me there. I think that's going to set the tone for our weekend. I'm just realistic. I can pump myself and beat my chest all I want going into a race track, but when you haven't had success there that means you don't know what feel you are looking for. The good news is we're going there with a complete new package that Darian (Grubb, crew chief) thinks will make me more comfortable and we'll see how it goes. We know at worst we've going to be 18th, two laps down. That's where we usually are."
Do you feel good about your car this weekend? "Yeah. It kind of picked up where I thought we would be. It's where you hope we would be is kind of where we were. We weren't as strong in qualifying trim as we were here in July that first practice. All of the fast laps were qualifying trim, so that part we're excited about because I think if we can somehow get the pole that will give us a big leg up on everyone."
Source: Toyota Motorsports