DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
What is your outlook for Homestead this weekend? “Obviously, a lot more relaxed this time around. We don’t have a whole lot to lose. We’ve got some trophies to hopefully win. Busy weekend obviously. It’s interesting to see how this whole championship will play out. It’s pretty close it seems like with those two over these last few weeks and I’m excited as a race fan to see who is going to step up and win it."
How difficult of a situation is it for NASCAR to secretly fine drivers like they did recently to Brad Keselowski? “I don’t know. I really don’t know what he (Brad Keselowski) said. I just heard that he said some stuff about the EFI, but didn’t hear specifically what he said. I don’t know if it was rightfully fined or not. All of the sports have the same thing. Everyone gets fined when you say something bad about the league or something like that so I don’t think it’s much different in that aspect. They’re trying to do some things within our sport to make it more eco-friendly and things like that. If you call it a gimmick or whatever then they don’t like that too well. I think it’s pretty standard with all sports. I’m not sure ours is any different."
Did the fine you received from NASCAR curtail you from participating on social media or stating your opinion? “Yeah, I think a lot of it being more active on the social media side early was just being new to it and you use it more often when you’re new to something. Of course, I stopped quite a bit when I did get fined and anybody would in that situation. And, so, yeah then you reserved your comments to stay outside of the sport itself. You talk about your day or something like that, but you don’t talk about how you see things from the outside because those are the things that they don’t want you talking about. It definitely changed the way I used my Twitter account or whatnot. It’s just part of it. I’m not going to just keep getting fined. Sure I want to go out there and speak my mind. There’s some things I do and don’t agree with, but I’m not going to just keep hacking up a fine every time that I have an opinion."
Have you found out what happened to Kyle Busch’s motor last week at Phoenix? “I don’t know specifically. All I know is some bolts were left loose in the engine. That’s a tough situation. I prefer not to even go there."
Do you think the NASCAR fines need to be secret? “Nothing’s a secret. What is secret? I think if they announce that they have a fine and what they fine for it just draws attention to the comment that they don’t like. They don’t like the comment so they don’t want to draw attention to it. So, in my mind that’s probably why they don’t want to make an announcement saying, ‘We’ve taken this action against this driver.’ I think that’s probably a reason -- they don’t want to draw any more attention to a comment that they don’t like in the first place.”
Do you think it has to do with certain personalities? “No, it’s not personality. It’s just opinion. We all have -- I think our opinions that do or don’t agree with NASCAR has nothing to do with our personality. We’re not terrible people because we don’t agree with what they do sometimes, we just have an opinion. Everyone has got one."
Who has the advantage Sunday between Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart? “I said a few weeks ago I feel like momentum only takes you so far and obviously Tony (Stewart) has got a lot of momentum, but I just think that the Ford camp itself has just been strong all year long and I just feel like this is a better track for Carl (Edwards) than it is for Tony just looking at stats. I’ve raced really well at this track and a lot of the race wins that I’ve been battling for has been with Carl so I know he’s really good at the track. It’s going to go -- if you’ve got a heads up battle and you feel like they’re dead even the guy with the three-point advantage is going to be the guy that I’m going to take and I still stand by that. Now, who I want to win the championship and who I think might be two different things."
Have you ever run three races in the same weekend? “Never. Nice birthday present from Kyle (Busch)."
Do you like the schedule of running three races in the same weekend? “No, no. This is for the birds. Yeah, I don’t know. Some people like the hustle and bustle of a race weekend and what not, but fortunately for me today this rain is kind of giving me the opportunity to chop things up quite a bit and we’ve gotten each practice in and then a rain break so everything has kind of worked out as far as that. Looking at the schedule, I was just scratching my head having to be on-track from 9 AM to 10 PM straight is a job. So, it’s tough. And, the downside of it in all seriousness is just the lack of focus you can have on one machine. Obviously, if we were in a championship battle we would never do this, but I think that somewhere along the line one of the three will pay a price because you’ve got to switch your focus so often."
Do you expect any changes this offseason at Joe Gibbs Racing? “I don’t know. It’s tough to say at this point. I feel like we’ve got a pretty strong group with our team. I think that there’s going to be process changes within JGR probably on how they build cars and things like that. As far as personnel, I don’t know. We usually don’t have that discussion until later on with Joe (Gibbs) and J.D. (Gibbs). For me, obviously we need to pick our program up at this point. And so we got to kind of start over."
Have you thought about how different your position in the championship standings is this year compared to last season? “You look and this time around I’m not paying nearly as much attention to media and things like that as what I was before. I was watching, on NASCAR’s website, the press conference with those two last night and it kind of brings up the memories that you had from last year and what not. So, yeah, I think it kind of hits home a little bit more this weekend than when you stop being a championship-contender weeks ago. It does. For us, it’s obviously a lot more relaxed and what not. It kind of drives me to kind of want to get back to that point again. You want to be relevant when it comes down to the last race and right now there’s only two that are relevant. For us, for sure when you see all that stuff going on it kind of makes it a little homesick."
Will Mike Ford be back as your crew chief next year? “I’d say it is a pretty strong possibility. I think me and Mike have had a lot of success together. We’ve -- on a winpercentage-basis-wise -- there are not many drivers and crew chiefs that have done better than us throughout our six year run together. There’s something to be said about that. And I think -- a lot of drivers have years like we’ve had this year. We hadn’t had a year like that except for this year. Maybe ’07 you could consider that, but we finished 12th in points because we wrecked a lot. We were still leading a lot of laps and contending for winning races. This year we just weren’t contenders at any point unless it was a short track. When I look at our relationship, it’s pretty deep I feel like with Mike. He’s helped me win a lot of races. It’s hard to sit there and point out anyone in the garage that I feel like can do a better job than him."
What are your plans for Thanksgiving? “Just have Thanksgiving in my house. Not going to do much really. Most of my family has moved down to the Charlottearea now anyway. It’s good that we can kind of celebrate all together. It’s good to kind of get a break. I like how our schedule works out to where it ends this weekend so next weekend you really kind of got a feel for -- the season’s over, you got Thanksgiving you can spend it with those people that you don’t get to see very often. All of us that are on the road for 38 weeks or however many weeks we are on the road -- it’s a good weekend to have off is Thanksgiving weekend."