Denny Hamlin - Infineon Friday Media Visit

By Toyota Motorsports

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

What are your expectations for this weekend’s race at Infineon Raceway? “It’s good to kind of get a mix of race tracks going here. I like this race track, I like road course racing in general, so hopefully it’s going to be a good weekend for us. We have some pretty good momentum right now and hopefully that continues.”

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

Does getting your first win of the year affect your outlook on the rest of the season? “Well, we were going to win eventually if we kept running like we were, I felt like. It’s just a matter of time. I felt like before we got a win, of course we didn’t want it to take this long in the course of the season, but it’s still -- we know we can win. Results haven’t been what we wanted for the most part this year, but they are where we want them at this point this year. This is what it’s all about. As long as you can get it in the top-10, it’s really what you do for the first 25 races doesn’t matter that much to begin with. So, you have to just make sure you’re running good at the right time. Hopefully we time it well to where we start running our best in September.”

Does the win give your crew confidence? “It is, for sure -- getting a win does that. It obviously gives everyone a little bit of confidence, a little bit of fresh air to know you can finish and win races.”

Was last year’s results typical of your team? “To me, a normal goal for myself is probably three to four (wins) a year, I feel like is very feasible given our style of racing. When you have eight wins, that means you’ve won at some tracks you don’t necessarily -- people don’t consider you a racewinner at. But, I feel like we’re a good enough team now, we can win just about everywhere we go. That wasn’t the case the first three years of my career where it was strictly Martinsville and Richmond and Pocono. We’re winning at other tracks now. Once we win once at one track, we typically repeat or have multiple wins at a track. So, we know getting into victory lane at one particular track for the first time is the key to having more success. When you have eight wins, it obviously puts a bigger target, especially when you make a run at the championship like we did last year. Everyone is going to have high expectations or they’re going to expect you to fail. Similar to the let down we had at the beginning of the year last year. When you have good talent on your race team, good guys working, things like that -- they’re not going to run terrible forever. It’s not like we got the monkey off our back and a sigh of relief. We weren’t going to go winless for the rest of my career. We were going to eventually get over last year and things like that. It just took a little bit longer.”

Does your team do anything around this race to build morale? “Most of our team goes on off-road trips and things like that before Sonoma. I think one of our team guys, his brother inlaw has some off-road vehicles and they take an off-road trip together and everything. That’s really good. Obviously if I’m able to attend, then I’m there. We constantly do things on and off the race track, whether it be dinners or stuff like that. All that stuff is very important, but I think anyone will tell you on-track performance adds a lot to team chemistry, no matter what. When you have on-track performances and you’re winning races and things like that, all is well most of the time.”

Did the difficulty you had at the end of 2010 help you handle the beginning of 2011? “Probably, I didn’t hit the panic button at any point. Really, even when we were 20-something in points. I just never did because I knew we were going to bounce back. I told you all a long time ago, we will be in the top-10, we’ll be where we need to be when we need to be there. It’s going to look bad at the beginning. I knew that, and I realized it. Trust me, when I’m on the race track and during practice and all that, I never think about last year. It has nothing to do with it. It looks a lot worse because you’re coming off -- we were in contention to win right through the last few races of last year and then all of a sudden the beginning of this year, you’re not a contender. A lot of people blame it on that, but it’s typical on our race team every year. Realistically, it took six to seven more weeks to get in our swing than what it usually does. People just need to realize that we’re typically slow starters.”

Does the win reaffirm that you have the correct crew chief in Mike Ford? “Well at least they’re not saying we need a new driver. That’s the positive about it. It would never get past me. Getting rid of Mike (Ford, crew chief) or switching Mike out would never leave my desk. He’s always -- he’s the guy that knows me the best and even though people doubt him and his ability and consider him old school, I consider him new school. He’s the guy on our team being JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) that innovates a lot of things that’s on all those race cars. I definitely feel like he’s the guy that I can win a championship with -- there’s no other guy right now that I would do a better job than him.”

Does your relationship with crew chief Mike Ford help you when you come to tracks like Sonoma? “When you go to -- I feel like we’re extremely good at adapting to places that we’ve never been to before, or places that are one off. Like Pocono, Martinsville -- those are tracks we don’t race at -- no where else really relates to those tracks. I feel like we’re good at those race tracks. I think we’ll be good at Kentucky, simply because everyone is going to be starting from scratch and it’s going to be a new place. I feel like our chemistry is so good that we typically get our stuff good before we get to the race track. That’s where I feel like he is a benefit, it’s on one off tracks like this.”

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Tags gibbs racing, sonoma, toyota