Loudon: Winning team interview, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: You mentioned earlier saying your previous wins, you just had the dominant car and it was the easy drive; what were the challenges today or how did you grow or evolve even somewhat as a driver today since you didn't...

Continued from part 1

Q: You mentioned earlier saying your previous wins, you just had the dominant car and it was the easy drive; what were the challenges today or how did you grow or evolve even somewhat as a driver today since you didn't have the most come car throughout the race?

DENNY HAMLIN: "I don't know, we just kept inching up on those guys it seemed like. We went from running about 13th or 15th midpoint in the race; we just started slowly making our way to the front. When we get those long green flag runs, that's really what played into our benefit. Once we got to the top 10 on a two tire stop, we were able to hold our own, even gain a little bit.

"It seems like those two tire stops is what kept us getting a little bit more track position and finally at the end, we were able to take four, go on a little one and went to the top five and we knew that was our opportunity to take two tires and really surprised more guys didn't do it, but I looked on the scoreboard and the guys that did do it, came out third, fourth, fifth or whatever they did.

"We were fortunate enough that we were far enough up the top-five that when we were going to take two, we were going to come out with the lead and that was very important. Because if we came out second, we were not going to win the race. We were probably going to fall back further. That was our race to try to stay up front in that clean air because that's ultimately what won us the race."

Q: What was it like to really compete on the last lap and holding somebody off?

DENNY HAMLIN: "My right foot was just shaking like crazy the last three laps. You try to hold the gas pedal down and all you're doing is going crazy with the right foot because you're getting nervous. You see Jeff (Gordon) coming and you're trying your best not to be that guy who chokes under pressure. I was on the verge of getting loose into the corner every single lap, so I just those last three laps, when I knew I just couldn't make a mistake, I really slowed down, it felt like lap time wise. And of course that reeled him in even closer.

"I knew if I kept going on at the pace I was going, it was going to be a matter of time I slipped up big and opened up the door for the guys. It was better to let those guys get a little bit closer and not make a mistake, than it was to just go all out and then open up the door for those guys to get a win.

Q: That last lap, how many times did you almost get side ways and coming toward the checkered did you actually touch the wall?

DENNY HAMLIN: "I'm not too sure. I was all over the track it felt like those last two laps. I couldn't hold a steady wheel if I had to.

"I was basically just trying not to give up the bottom. I knew those guys would get a little bit tighter when they were right behind me, and when those guys have better tires than you, they are going to be able to put their car in different positions that are going to work better for them, even though you have the clean air.

"So for us, it was all just trying to stay on the bottom, and I knew if I just got off four with my bumper ahead of them, I was going to be okay. I knew I was pretty close to the wall and I was; of course, wide open spinning the rear tires. I thought if he actually got a run on me, he could have got me at the end with as sideways as I got right before the line. Luckily I was able to keep him pinched down."

Q: The two tires, what situations during the race did you start thinking this pit stop or get to this position and everything, and just having everything kind of fall into place with that?

MIKE FORD: "It's strictly a timing issue. Here is similar to a road race in the fact that two tires do work. Fuel only is an option at times. You start at the back of the race and you pick a lap and you look at your segments and your fuel windows and you say, okay at a certain lap is going to be the last fuel stop but a certain lap, if you have left side tires that are less than 130 laps on them, it's two tires from them. So you almost work from the back of the race and look forward.

"And 120, 130 laps was planning on four tires. It ended up being a little closer to the end of the race than that with the green flag pit stop that we had to make. So had a number in my head before the race that that was going to be the last time and Denny had mentioned earlier in the race that he was, talking about track position, and we wanted to make sure that before that, we paced ourselves to be on that cycle at the end of the race. And it just worked out.

"The cautions fell the way they needed to. The long runs came the way they needed to for that to be able to work out. So when that last caution came with 50 laps on our left side tires, it was a little bit more than I was hoping for, but we had thought about it pre race and had made that commitment."

"We didn't have anything to lose and everything to gain. So that's, the opportunity came that we were looking for. So we were able to just do two tires and it put our whole race in sequence for what we liked."

Q: After Darlington, you took a lot of hits from the media and fans. Did you learn something from that experience? Did you learn any lessons you can apply to the future with all of the hits you took?

DENNY HAMLIN: "I don't know. Honestly I really wouldn't have done things much different from the way I did, because really, our team I felt like is tight enough to where that just drives them. Something like that is not going to tear our team apart. If I do something wrong on the racetrack, I want Mike to let me know, or I want the crew guys to say, you lost us this one; that's fine with me. That drives me to go harder, and it does the same thing for those guys.

"What I liked about it is we didn't just get rid of everyone. We chose to move guys around, put them in different places. A few guys we brought in, but for the most part, it's the same team, just guys moved in different position.

"For the most part, we are just trying to give those guys confidence right now, and we know they can do it. They are doing it every day during pit practice, knocking out great stops. It's just during race day; they were having trouble getting it done. And that right there is just more confidence issues than anything and it's finally starting to come around for them."

Q: What I meant was if you did it publicly, in behind sight, should you have done it privately?

DENNY HAMLIN: "You could do it either way. I felt like, would I do it again the same way, with the same emotions in play and everything had I calmed down and not been right after the race, maybe I would have held back and not said anything. But when you lose the races that we lost because of that and we knew that racing or winning was at such a premium for those bonus points, whoever wanted to talk to me, I was going to let them know exactly how I felt. And that's exactly how it came out."

Q: I understood you have a little extra motivation and you visited a children's hospital, your helmet had a scheme that a patient had constructed for you; does that make this even sweeter?

DENNY HAMLIN: "Yeah, that's what the cool thing about it, this is our first win with a special paint scheme. This is the wear your "Heart on Your Helmet" campaign for FedEx. This is the fifth one of 11 this year. Moira, I believe it is, is 13-years old. She designed the helmet that I had today. It was great to finally get a win with those guys riding along with me.

"We visited the Children's Hospital of Boston. That really meant a lot for everyone who came on Thursday and visited us. Those kids are not always able to go to the race track, and we try to do our best to bring the race track to them.

"They knew that I was going to be there - that they were going to be riding along with me today during the race and I bet they were as excited as I was there at the end."

Q: At the end of a race like that, you've got spotters talking to you, all that stuff going on and you're trying not to check the mirror but you have to check the mirror, trying to decide if the low line is right, if the high line is right, you have Jeff Gordon, breathing down your neck. Does your mind speed up or does it slow down or is it a little bit of both? Does it seem like it takes forever but you're making those decisions can you just talk about that part of it?

DENNY HAMLIN: "I was about ten seconds from telling everyone, crew chief, spotter, not to say another word. I can look in my mirror and see. I know when I hit a good lap; I don't need them to tell me. I can feel it in the race car.

"So when I got a spotter saying, "You're clear by three, two" that kind of gets you excited. Then you kind of get into a panic mode and that's kind of where it was the last few laps. I almost feel like I would have been better with complete silence on the radio and just let me run my race. But those guys are trying to give me all the information possible. I'm the first one who speaks up and says, "Y'all aren't saying enough."

"At the end of those races, for sure, I'd like to say, let me handle it from here because y'all are driving me absolutely crazy and we were on the verge of it today."

Q: Does time speed up or does it slow down?

DENNY HAMLIN: "It slows down when you're looking at laps. I was counting down, eight, seven, six, and I'm doing it as I'm crossing the line. I'm totally oblivious to whatever the spotter is saying, however many laps to go or anything like that. For me it cannot go by fast enough and as fast as the No. 24 was coming, I knew that it was going to be very, very close at the end when he got to me.

"It definitely slowed down in that instance."

Q: Being where you've been pretty much all season, it's indicative of how consistent this team is and everything, but I guess now that you've got the bonus points, how much does your approach really change now; all along it's been about trying to establish some steadiness, correct?

DENNY HAMLIN: "Oh, absolutely. Up until about three weeks ago, we were taking top-three finishes and second-place finishes and saying, what a great day, excellent day, and that's what we needed to when we got to 10 races to go before the Chase starts, which is today, we needed to have a big enough lead where we can just throw caution to the wind and see what happens.

"And we are still going to have that mentality. Even though we have this first win now, we are still not just going to sit back and say, a top-three is good for us. We are going to continue to just throw out there Hail Mary's and see how they land. "For us right now, it's still all about getting more and more bonus points and we've got some very, very good racetracks for us coming up and I feel like we are going to hopefully close that gap to the No. 24 and No. 48."

MODERATOR: "Thank you, Denny. Congratulations."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon