Denny Hamlin, ...
Denny Hamlin, #11 FedEx Ground Impala SS met with media at Loudon and discussed his expectations for the race, last weekend's Busch race, his thoughts on the penalties assessed to the No. 24 and No. 48 teams, his involvement in FedEx Racing's Children's Hospital program and other subjects.
ARE YOU EXPECTING TO HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND HERE? "Yeah, this is probably our best race track and it goes with our driving style and one I have had success on in the past. So I am pretty much looking forward to this weekend."
WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR IN PRACTICE? "I tell you, getting that car to turn in the middle is going to be a big deal here, especially with the new car. They don't turn in the middle, so whoever can get it figured out the fastest is going to be the best. I think we are pretty confident in what we have. We took Milwaukee a couple weeks ago and we are pretty happy with what we found. I think we have found a few things that are going to make our program a even better."
ARE YOU GLAD YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE TO HOP IN A HELICOPTER TO GET TO THE BUSCH RACE? "Yeah, I am fairly happy that I have got the events at the same place. That was the only one that we were going to do, last week and it was an eventful weekend overall. I mean, to have a top ten in Sonoma starting so far back, we definitely will take that finish and the Busch race is what it was."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE #24 AND #48 PENALTIES THAT WERE ANNOUNCED THIS WEEK? DO YOU THINK THAT THEY WERE PRETTY SEVERE? "It was pretty much in line right where I thought it would be. I think after NASCAR sat them out for the practice, I knew that it was going to be a pretty severe penalty. Was it too severe for what they did? I don't know, I think it was right in line as long as they are consistent and it doesn't matter whether you blow the rules by a little bit or a lot. I think that as long as they keep that the same, it is better for everyone."
DO YOU THINK THAT FORMER 'GREY AREA' IS STILL IN NASCAR? "I don't know, I think that with this car they are trying to get rid of that grey area. We have seen the evolution of the stock car. What they seem to have done is taken a stock car and they have twisted it around and we have got these bullets that we are racing in the old cars. The thing is, those cars have developed that way through the grey areas. We have taken. it is not the black and white areas that we are changing. We have completely changed the look of the car over the grey areas. Now, I think that NASCAR is trying to back in control of these race cars. I commend them for doing that."
DO YOU THINK THE NEW CAR PROGRAM IS WORKING OUT? "I think it is, you know, it is still a little early to tell how successful this whole thing is going to be. I think for the most part it is evolving better than I thought it would. At the first race or two I thought that we were going to have a long road to hoe to try to get to where it needs to be. I think it is really starting to speed up. You are starting to see the other teams starting to catch up a little bit. I think that is going to make, obviously, better racing."
ON DAYTONA: "We had an excellent Daytona 500. we ran really well there. We are really happy about it. That's been one of the races were I have needed to improve on. I feel like with a little fine tuning, should be pretty good there."
IN REGARDS TO PENALTIES: DO YOU FEEL THAT NASCAR NEEDS TO START SUSPENDING DRIVERS FROM RACES TO CATCH THE ATTENTION AND STOP THE TEAM FROM CHEATING? "It is so hard to tell, you know. NASCAR made it very apparent that they did not want us messing with the cars. I think that, you know, for as little of an infraction that it was, for them to have such a big penalty, that sends out a bigger message. I think that people are really going to start catching on and realize that it is really not worth the risk."
DID YOU TALK TO ARIC ALMIROLA? AND DID YOU PUT THAT STUFF BEHIND YOU FINALLY? "Yeah, I think he has come to feel okay about it and myself, I was put into a situation where I was told to get into the race car and that is what my job is to do. We were in a situation where, yeah, it is the end of Rockwell's contract, so it is time. We are really trying to good for them especially in their home town. We needed a win. It was a win- or nothing-type race and they felt like they did what they had to do to get that done."
DID YOU GET THE CHANCE TO TALK TO ARIC (ALMIROLA)? "I still haven't talked to Aric yet. I think that J.D. just now got to talk to him, so I have got to wait in line."
THE FACT IS THAT (JEFF) GORDON LOST 100 POINTS AND BROUGHT HIM CLOSER TO YOU NOW. IS THAT GOING TO MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE? "It is a severe penalty to lose a crew chief and points, but the points thing really doesn't matter. We feel like we will definitely be in the Chase so the 100 points is absolutely irrelevant. Even if we go in there with a 500-point lead, it's not going to matter because we have not got a win yet. It looks good on paper that we are real close. We are closer now than what we were, but for the most part we have got the mentality that we have got to go for these wins. That team, they can afford to give up 100 points, they could afford to give up 300 points right now. So, it really doesn't matter."
ON THE PENALTIES GIVEN TO THE #24 AND #48: "Yeah, I mean, that is really what it is all about, other than a few that are fighting for 10th, 11th, 12th place right now. That 100 points could hurt you. But for guys running the top three, they can afford to take the risk that they are taking and still be okay because even if NASCAR takes 300 points, they are still in the Chase and they still have got the wins and the bonus points. They are still going to be ranked first. So, really, as severe as it sounds, it is probably not as bad as everyone thinks."
DO YOU THINK THEY SHOULD PENALIZE THEM BY TAKING AWAY BONUS POINTS WHEN THEY GOT TO THE CHASE? "I've thought about that a little bit this week. That would be pretty big. The guys would still have those wins at the race track, you're just taking away bonus points. Honestly, from my perspective, for the other 10 guys that are going to be in that Chase, we would much rather see 10 bonus points taken away than we would the 100 real points. I think for the most part, NASCAR is going to do what they think is right and ultimately they can't change the rules just because guys have a big enough lead now that it doesn't matter."
HOW MUCH URGENCY IS THERE FOR YOUR TEAM TO GET A WIN? "It's not really urgency. The way we see it now is we could still win the championship if this was the old format so we're 171 (points) behind right now. If we were to go into the Chase right now we'd be 40 behind. We feel like we're running well enough, we could make that up if we run the same way that we have all year. We would like to start closer to those guys. We definitely should be even with them right now but that doesn't matter. We're going to start a little behind it unless we start rolling off some wins here. Even if we don't I think we can still overcome it."
DOES THE RULE CHANGE MAKE IT HARDER TO BE SATISFIED WITH A TOP-FIVE? "Yeah, it does. We feel like we're sitting in a decent spot right now when it comes to the Chase. To sit there and say we're going to be happy with a top three or four finish, we are. But not as much as we would a win, obviously, but for a lot different reasons than just a victory."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE FINAL RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACE WITH THE MONTE CARLO SS: "It's going to be interesting to say the least. To go to Talladega in the fall and not have the car that everyone's used to. I don't know. It's definitely going to be a changing history. That's just going to be one of the scripts in the storybook."
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR VISIT TO THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL YESTERDAY? "That was a lot of fun for myself to go to a Children's Hospital. At FedEx Racing. we were able to donate $25,000 to the Children's Hospital in Boston. That was a lot of fun because you get to see kids that normally don't have good days smiling and really helping with the healing process. Being excited, seeing the race cars, being able to race against me with remote control cars. It's such a great campaign that FedEx is doing this year. This is going to be the fifth race of the 11-race schedule with our special paint schemed helmet. I'm just very excited about this whole thing."
WHAT DID THE HELMET LOOK LIKE? "This one in particular is really cool. Moyra is her name. She's 13 years old. She designed this helmet and she's really done a good job with it. It's one of the more unique helmets that we've seen. It's got the Children's Hospital Boston on it and a few other things but she wasn't able to be there yesterday for the presentation but she's definitely going to be in our thoughts here at the race track."
-credit: gm racing