DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

What are your thoughts moving into the second half of the season? “Just looking forward to the second half. Obviously, we’ve got eight or nine races to kind of hit our stride and hopefully get some good momentum going. Hopefully, if we were able to perform well enough over these eight, nine races then we should be hopefully trying to make a title run.”

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

What needs to happen as a result of the traffic problem at Kentucky last week? “I think overall the track has got a lot of upgrades that needs to be done. Obviously, when they built the race track, they weren’t going to put in a huge fan zone and four or six lane highways if they weren’t going to get a Cup race. They just knew, I guess a year and a half ago or something like that. They had a lot of work that needed to be done in a year and a half and they just didn’t get to it all. I think in time they’ll get it figured out. Obviously, it has an owner in it that is not afraid to spend money and politic with the state. I think that the state is going to be willing to make some changes and obviously, above and beyond that they’ve got to have a better traffic strategy because I think that kind of failed.”

Do you think an autograph session with all the drivers would help to bring fans back to Kentucky? “Autograph sessions and things like that, I’m not sure that’s going to bring in new fans or anything like that. The stuff that we do to help promote races goes really above and beyond anything that we’ve ever done in the past to promote races. People just don’t have enough money to do it, they’re not going to do it. An autograph is not going to make a difference in my opinion whether someone shows up or not.”

Will some drivers or teams make desperate moves to make the Chase? “Maybe, maybe on the crew chief’s part, but the drivers really have no choice. If they’re second or third or something on a restart, or have a shot at a restart, it would have to be within the first two or three cars. They’re not going to make some bold move trying to win from 10th-place. It’s just not going to happen. I don’t think you’ll see that much difference from the on-track with the drivers, but I think you could see it from the crew chiefs trying to do some different strategy.”

Do you think the drivers should be used to help apologize to the fans in Kentucky? “I feel like NASCAR has the most accessible athletes of any sport that we have. Fans can come up to us right in the middle of practice and get an autograph, things like that. It’s very accessible. Obviously, I was watching on NASCAR Now that the GM of the track (Kentucky Speedway), he was genuinely sorry about what happened and was wanting to make it up to the fans with the tickets for next year or tickets to any other race at an SMI track. That’s taking a big step in my opinion. That’s a good thing that they’re doing, they genuinely are sorry about what happened. But, I mean, they’ll figure it out. As far as using us for their sorry statement, that’s okay -- we’re willing to do that and I’m alright with it. I don’t know that it’s going to bring more people to the race track on race weekend though, is what I’m saying. That part of it, I’m really not too sure about.”

What does traffic like what was experienced at Kentucky mean for the sport? “Well to me, I view it as a good thing that there was that much demand to get into a race track. You hear stories and we hear stories of 10 years ago or so, how hard it was to get into race tracks and everything. Now you hear two hours before a race starts that we just drove right in. That’s not a good thing. You want there to be a little bit of traffic that means people are going to be filing into the race track and watching the race. I don’t -- when I left the race track, I saw this huge swarm of people coming from every which direction. I kind of look at it and smile that the demand for NASCAR is back.”

Is there anything magic about New Hampshire for you? “I don’t know. It’s tough, to me it can be the monster mile like Dover, because you never know what you’re going to get out of this place -- it’s so hard to race at this race track, especially side-by-side. The air gets taken off and things like that. It’s a tough race track. Track position is really big here. It’s kind of a one-mile track, but it races like a short track. You have to put in your Richmond setups and things like that and hope it all works out. It’s very tough to avoid trouble, especially on restarts here because everyone fights to get to the bottom.”

By: toyota motorsports