Hamlin - Atlanta Saturday media visit

Toyota Motorsports press release

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Charter Communications Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Denny Hamlin
Denny Hamlin

Photo by: Adriano Manocchia

What do you think about this weekend’s race at Atlanta? “Atlanta has been a good track for me over these last few years and we’ve always had a car that can contend for a win. Hopefully, we can build on that. It looks like we’re a top-five car again here in practice so we just know that if we get another win that it will put us where we want to be.”

Will the effort you put into making the Chase affect you in the Chase? “No. If anything, hopefully, if we continue from last week and this week the same -- we’re going to be going into the Chase on an upswing. You’d rather do that than try to figure out, ‘Okay, we won some races at the beginning of the year, why aren’t we running good anymore.’ A few teams are like that right now. I’d rather sneak in, but be dangerous than be locked in two weeks ago and still trying to figure out how we’re going to be competitive with 10 races to go.”

Are you surprised that you are still outside of the top-10? “With this new points system it’s about finishing and things like that and we just haven’t done a good job of that this year. We’ve struggled with a lot of mechanical issues that we’re working through. That’s put us in this position. I’ve made a few mistakes here and there, but overall we’ve just got to finish races and we haven’t done a good job of that. Now we find ourselves in a position where if two of these guys sneak up and get a win in these next two weeks, we could very well be out. For us, it’s just about trying to run better because ultimately you want to be competitive in the Chase. I don’t want to go in there and not be competitive. Hopefully, we’ve got something we can build off of and it seems like these last two weeks now -- this week’s not over -- we’re starting to get back to what I feel like is being competitive.”

Do you think the tire fall-off at Atlanta suits your driving style? “Yep. I definitely do. I think that any of these tracks like this where you have extreme tire wear we seem to excel at. These next two weeks are going to be those types of race tracks where the drivers that can maintain and keep their equipment throughout the day and save tires and things like that are going to excel. Ultimately, you have to have a good handling race car that helps the driver tremendously as far as that’s concerned. It seems like these two in particular fit my style perfectly.”

Do you get enough time to enjoy activities away from the race track? “I do. Every day I do something active or some kind of sport, I’m doing. The way our schedule works out a lot of times I’m able to do it even on race weekend. It’s just something for me to stay active and stay healthy and I love the competition aspect of it. I think athletes are athletes and they can play a lot of different sports. A lot of guys in this garage are great athletes. Any sport that they play they are going to excel at. I think that it helps. The hand-eye coordination is the biggest thing with driving a race car and is the most crucial thing you have to have to be good.”

Will you ask your crew to keep you updated on other potential Chase drivers during the race? “Not really. I know who -- I know what we have to do and I know what guys we’re racing. No, I don’t need to know. Last week the only thing I got updated with was x car, x car, x car is all multi laps down. We need to just get us a good finish here and we’re going to have a great day. That’s the only thing I really want to know about. We’re getting down to it now to where I can pretty much count the points in my head every car I see in front of behind me.”

Would you prefer to have tires that would not last an entire fuel run? “Yep, I would. I was thinking about it this morning actually is that watching some of those old races back in the days -- the cars made little down force, the tires were soft and it was about who could time their tire cycles to fuel and over taking another car was much easier. It’s just so hard nowadays to do that because honestly the tires are better. I know that’s what Goodyear wants and what NASCAR wants and drivers want as far as safety is concerned, but nowadays drivers don’t pay any price for over driving a race car. In the last year guys are driving corner entry way harder than what they should be allowed to and I think that is some of the reason why you see some of the more successful drivers and new drivers winning this year that you have is that you just don’t pay a price anymore for over driving your race car because everything is just so good now. The drivers like Mark Martin that you’ve seen for years and years be so good at saving his equipment, it’s not as big of an advantage anymore because the tires are so much better. I would like to see in the future tires that we run fast for a lap or two, but then drop tremendously off. It forces us to come in and take tires and these races are not going to be won on some sort of fuel strategy or some kind of gamble in the pits. I like that part of it. It’s all part of racing and I understand that, but you like to see fast cars win races.

Is it easier to win with the tires we use currently? “It’s easier for driver to win because it’s really about the crew chief nowadays and what strategy they play. In my opinion, it’s just not as driver important today as it used to be. There’s so many more factors. It’s who can get the best fuel mileage -- there’s so many more factors, which makes it interesting at times, but you don’t see in my eyes, the top three drivers in Cup winning and winning as often as what you would think because ultimately it’s out of their hands most weeks.”

Does a win at Richmond help your car perform better in the Chase? “I think so. You look at the years where we won Richmond -- is it the last two years that we’ve won Richmond leading into the Chase -- it’s been a huge momentum boost for us. It’s like that win came just in time for us when we thought that we didn’t know if we were going to be going into the Chase with good momentum or bad and we up and win that race and the next thing we know, we run well in the Chase from that point forward. I think that Richmond is very important in that aspect and I know it’s worked very well for us as far as being a springboard for running well in the Chase.”

Do you think if you don’t run well at Richmond that you would not run well in the Chase? “I don’t know. I’ve always run well at Richmond.”

Is there a better track than Richmond for you to race at next week? “No, not really. It seems like here lately with giving so much information to our teammate, he’s been the guy we’ve had to kind of harness here lately at that track. Regardless of whether we win or whether we run top-five or whatever, we know we’re going to go there and we’re going to be competitive. We feel like we will be. We always look at the schedule and luckily for us some of our best race tracks are the three to four that lead into the Chase. That part of it has been good. The negative part is that it seems like the first three races of the Chase are typically our worst race tracks. It’s kind of a doubleedged sword. We’re never short of momentum when it comes to the Chase. It’s just when we get to those first three races that has been our struggle.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags toyota, sprint cup, hamlin, atlanta

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