Homestead: 2nd, 3rd points finishers press conference

Homestead-Miami Speedway November 21, 2010 An Interview With: DENNY HAMLIN - Finished 2nd in points KEVIN HARVICK - Finished 3rd in race, 3rd in points KERRY THARP: Joining us up front is our second-place finisher in points for the 2010...

Homestead-Miami Speedway
November 21, 2010

An Interview With:
DENNY HAMLIN - Finished 2nd in points
KEVIN HARVICK - Finished 3rd in race, 3rd in points

KERRY THARP: Joining us up front is our second-place finisher in points for the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, and also joining him is our third-place finisher in points and also third-place finisher in today's Ford 400 and that is Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Denny, talk about your run out there this afternoon, and your thoughts at this point.

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I mean, it was a fight. You know, you can kind of maybe contribute it to bad qualifying, but our car was really fast at the beginning. I mean, just unbelievably fast at the beginning, and I knew we had a car that could contend for a win, and obviously when we got in that incident on the back straightaway, it tore up the front and knocked the toe out and obviously the car did not drive as well for the rest of the day.

We just tried to patch it and work on it the best we could but just wasn't the car that it was at the beginning. It's just part of racing. There was a lot of circumstances in which we had an opportunity to win the championship. You know, by the numbers, fuel mileage was one contributor, factor. But it's part of racing. Strategy is part of racing. It's not just about the fastest car and best driver. There's a whole lot that goes into this sport and that's what makes it as good as it is.

We'll just keep fighting and get 'em next year.

KERRY THARP: Thank you, Denny. Kevin Harvick, certainly a gutsy effort, gamey effort out there, had a super season, as did the 11 car. Your thoughts about today.

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, we just had a good car today and we did almost everything that we needed to do. We put ourselves in position to run up front, and we ran up front and you know, in the end, we just got beat there on that last restart and they just out ran us.

All in all, we went downswinging and that's all you can ask for. They did a great job.

Q: Kevin, did you get a thorough explanation on your pit road speeding penalty, and are you settled with it?

KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think that penalty will ever settle in my stomach. When you read me off of my pit road times of 49.6, 49.4 50.8 and then 49.6; and there's only a handful people that get to see them, I won't ever settle for that.

I don't know how you can be speeding when you're on the bumper in front of you if the other guy is not speeding. So that's about it.

Q: Does the fact that Jimmie finished second kind of take a little bit of the woulda, coulda, shoulda out of what happened today?

DENNY HAMLIN: Not really. I felt like as soon as we dropped the green, I thought, we could win the race. But obviously, them not having to back into it is good. We all had to race the entire race. Everyone was racing extremely hard, so it's just -- you know, it doesn't satisfy you. We did all we could do, and even if we had won the race today it wouldn't have been good enough but still disappointed that we didn't win the race.

Q: Kevin, can you reflect on from where you guys came from a year ago to where you are now?

KEVIN HARVICK: Well, it's a 180 for us. Last year at this time we all wanted to -- we all wanted to put a gun in our mouth. Didn't know what we needed to do to fix it, and we were running better but we didn't know if that was going to continue into next year. The guys, we came out of the gate strong. We ran strong all year. And in the end, we came up a little bit short but from where we were last year to this steppingstone, for us to build on is a whole lot better than where we were a year to go to be consistent racing for championships.

Q: Just wanted to ask you about your mind-set entering this weekend. Obviously seemed like Kevin and Jimmie delighted in kind of needling you at that press conference and playing a little bit of mind games. Was there another awkward moment for you when you had to climb into the bed of that pickup truck doing the parade lap with Jimmie and what did you share with each other at that moment?

DENNY HAMLIN: Not really. Even before that -- we have had plenty of moments where we have all been around each other. It's all mutual respect and we all know that we are doing all we can, and are willing to do whatever it takes for our race team to win.

We are all the same, just with different colors and different teams on our suit. The mentality, I don't think there's no one person that has more desire than the other, I don't believe. I believe everyone wants it just as bad. It's just, you know, it's just part of racing.

Q: Just as a follow-up, for Kevin, you mentioned that your team went down swinging but so did Denny's. When you are swinging away and he still comes out with the title, do you step away with some degree of not only respect but awe for the fact that he's done it five times in a row?

KEVIN HARVICK: I think you have to respect it for sure, knowing how hard it is to do this, I think that you have to step back and look at it and realize what they have accomplished is pretty remarkable. But for us, I think you step back looking at they are also vulnerable. This is the first crack at it. They have obviously done a great job but there's a few chinks in the armor and I think everybody has caught up to being more competitive to them. I think hopefully this is something that -- they are going to be competitive going forward, and hopefully we are as competitive going forward as well.

Q: Kevin and Denny, I know this is difficult, but the guy -- because you wanted to win it but the guy who just won it has won five championships in a row; can you put that in perspective at all? Do you guys think about where Jimmie Johnson is going to be ranked after this championship?

KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think it's difficult. I mean, this is what you race for. You race for championships and we have raced for the championship week-in and week-out. There's only one winner and there's a whole bunch of losers.

We put up a valiant effort and what they have done, I just saw the list of the couple of seven-time champions in front of him, so I think that one is pretty easy to put into perspective how much they have accomplished.

Q: Denny, you've shown all year, every time you seem to get backed into a corner, it's fuel for and you motivation. Right after the race ended you and Mike were already talking about, we are just going to go kick their butts next year. I know it's just minutes after it happened but are you already using this as fuel to go back and get 'em next year?

DENNY HAMLIN: Anybody would. Any time -- there's 42 other race teams that have got work to do. For me it is, and obviously coming this close is tough, especially the small, little things that could have changed the outcome of this Chase in one lap.

But that part of it hurts, but that's -- you've got to get better at all aspects and I feel like that's where that teams been -- the 48 team has been strong over the last few years. They really have no weak spots.

We know we could -- there are several parts of our car, there are several parts of our team that we can improve on, and that's a good thing, because as competitive as what we are right now, I know I need to get better in qualifying. I said that last year at this time. There's lots of things that I could do to be better and there's lots of things that we can do as a team to be better.

So my focus, when Monday comes around, is what I need to do to execute all of those things.

Q: Denny, there were many points in the race where you looked like you were out of it and kept coming back and coming back; at what point did you realize it was over? And for Kevin, Kyle Busch indicated it was your fault for his wreck. What are your thoughts on that one?

DENNY HAMLIN: I thought it was over when the 18 wrecked, for sure, that trapped us a lap down. The 29 and the 48 were actually just a straightaway ahead, but the way it timed out to when that caution fell, it trapped us a lap down, and so they stayed out and the cars at the back all came and got tires, so it separated us. What was a straightaway turned into 15 spots when that caution flew, and that really hurt us quite a bit.

But we were lucky to be in that position; where our car was banged up bad and we just could not overcome that.

KEVIN HARVICK: As far as the 18 incident, he raced me like a clown all day: Three-wide, on the back bumper, running into me, and I just had enough.

DENNY HAMLIN: Sounds like your teammates raced me all day.

KEVIN HARVICK: I just parked yours. (Laughter)

DENNY HAMLIN: God, never ended.

Q: We can see from being around you but if you can perhaps put into words, last week your emotions getting out of the car were angry and frustrated with how the day went and today, if you can just -- yeah, if you can put it into words.

DENNY HAMLIN: Well we didn't lose it right at the very end. The emotions were very high at the beginning like I said the first couple of runs when we were really making up a lot of ground and obviously when we got in that incident, immediately when you're spinning you think, okay, it's over and you run a couple of laps and it's like, it's not terrible and maybe we can come back from it.

Then we had a good pit stop, put us in front of that 48 and actually out ran them that one run and spaced ourselves from him, but that was the absolute best the car could be for the conditions of the car with it being knocked around.

So that was the best-case scenario and as soon as those guys got -- we came back in, we were actually ahead of them. We had less than stellar pit stop that put us back about four spots behind him and he never looked back.

Q: Hard to put things into perspective, but Phoenix, the fuel mileage, was that your shot to put this thing away and make today's race not as -- obviously as significant as it turned out to be in?

DENNY HAMLIN: Sure, it would have been better for our favor. I don't know how it would have turned out for the fans. Obviously there would not have been as much hype about the race because we could have coasted, I guess you could say, to a win today. But you know, like I said, there's many, many aspects of a winning race team, and you've got to have all of those parts and pieces put together.

We were just short on the fuel mileage piece. That's just one of the things on the list that we have got to work on.

Q: I saw when you were walking on pit road before you came in, Tony Stewart stopped and talked to you for a little bit, your old teammate. Can you tell us what he said to you? He's been in these situations, too. Can you tell us what he said?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, Tony has really helped me this year quite a bit. We have talked a lot. You know, just he's much older and wiser than what he was in his early years when he was causing a bunch of ruckus, and when I find myself in those situations, he's always there to kind of guide me. Jim Hunter really had that spot I feel like before he passed away.

Those two guys have probably been instrumental in shaping who I am on and off the racetrack today, and just you know, just words of encouragement, obviously, from Tony. He's been through this before.

Q: What do you take away, you won eight races in a year you had knee surgery; will there come a point in the winter where you look back and say you had a great year?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I see it now. I don't have to wait. I know right now -- I knew before this weekend happened that we had a lot to be proud of as a race team. And so I can take a little bit -- I can take the load off a little bit because of that, and had we just kind of coasted in here and got lucky to get in this point, then probably not.

But I feel like we had a solid year. We had a really good car all year and just, you know, yeah, you can take away the fact that we are coming off of our best year ever. I still know that there's -- I've got to get better in a lot of areas.

Q: I wanted to ask you first to clarify what happened with Greg Biffle early on. I thought at first you thought it was Greg's fault and then he said he thought it was your fault.

DENNY HAMLIN: I didn't place the blame on anyone.

Q: Okay. Can you explain how you wound up getting together?

DENNY HAMLIN: It looks like I was on the inside of him and somebody went three-wide on him right at the last minute, and he came down and got into our right front.

Nobody's fault, at all. Just one of those things where three cars, it was not enough space for three cars at that point.

Q: For both of you, Denny, I think I know what your answer might be here, but one moment that you could change over the course of the Chase, if you could take it back and do it over again, one moment or one race; you were so close. Any little thing could have made a difference.

KEVIN HARVICK: For me I would take the first five back with the pit crew that I had the last five.

DENNY HAMLIN: Phoenix last weekend, pit when the 29 and the 20, when those guys pitted, probably was the turning point I felt like.

Q: You mentioned this earlier, when you look back on the season as a whole, you talked about what a 180-degree turnaround it was from last season. Do you think you will remember or appreciate that more or coming so close to winning a title?

KEVIN HARVICK: No, I remember where we sat when I left this race last year. You always want to win but I'm not going to be sit here and be disappointed. We raced as hard as we could race this year, with everybody putting up every piece of effort that they had, week-in and week-out, and I know what it feels like to run like we did last year. So I'm more excited about looking to be consistent and racing this way than I am -- I'm not going to look back. This is going to make us stronger. We have got a good race team that's going to stick around for a while, and you know, I'm just happy to be a part of it right now.

Q: You said just happy to be a part of it, that's sort of what I wanted to ask you. You have enjoyed these last few weeks, your personality, you seem like a completely different person and you said you enjoyed a press conference much how much have you just been thrilled to be a part of this?

KEVIN HARVICK: This is the easy part is getting to this point. Last year we weren't in the Chase. We got that accomplished by a bunch. And you know, once you get to the last week, you're supposed to enjoy that part of it. You've got a shot and that's really all you can ask for. How the circumstances play out from there is really kind of -- there's a lots of things in your control but there's a lot of things out of your control, too, especially with the position that we were in today.

So you go out and you race as hard as you can and you try to put yourself in position to gain points and do the best you can with that team, and I just wasn't going to get caught up in worrying about where the 11 or where the 48 was. We needed to go out and win and put ourselves at the front of the pack to try to do that.

I have enjoyed it. I always tell people I would much rather do -- I'll do any press conference you want away from the racetrack because when I get to the racetrack, the switch flips, and it's not really the first thing on my mind.

But away from the racetrack, I'll give you guys all you want.

Q: Last few weeks had a lot of tension and anxiety, now that you've accepted what the outcome, is there a sense of relief that at least now it's over?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, a little bit. I'll be honest with you, I was not nervous at any point until about an hour before the race. That's really when it kind of hit me.

You know, it's so many turning points in this Chase where it can go one way or the other or in anybody's favor. Just think about all of the situations you wish you could go back and change; right now it's more thinking about that.

But yeah, relieved that it is over.

Q: Just about Gil, the changes that they made, what has he meant to you? You guys have been together earlier in your career and then you wanted changes, but how has Gil really pulled that group together this season?

KEVIN HARVICK: That group has been together for a long time, except for my part as a driver. They have been together for a long time and Gil, he's very good with the people, which can be my short falls a lot of the times during a race weekend. So he rallies the troops and keeps everybody upbeat and keeps me upbeat, and really, he's that guy that is going to wait for somebody else to try different things as they go through the progression of the car.

So he's an aggressive racer but conservative on a lot of things. He's very smart about what he puts on the car and when he puts it on there and how we go to the racetrack and race. We may not have the fastest car every week but he's very confident in the parts and pieces on the car; that they are going to stay on there but he's definitely the leader of the team, that's for sure.

KERRY THARP: Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, thank you so much for putting on such a great show in 2010 and we'll see you soon. Thank you.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin , Jim Hunter , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing