Pocono: Winning team press conference

Transcripts: Pocono Raceway June 6, 2010 An interview with: DENNY HAMLIN - Winner MIKE FORD - Crew chief COACH JOE GIBBS - Owner THE MODERATOR: We're joined here in the media center by today's winning crew chief, Mike Ford. Mike, pretty...

Transcripts: Pocono Raceway
June 6, 2010

An interview with:
DENNY HAMLIN - Winner
MIKE FORD - Crew chief
COACH JOE GIBBS - Owner

THE MODERATOR: We're joined here in the media center by today's winning crew chief, Mike Ford. Mike, pretty active day out there today. Tell us a little bit about your view from atop of the box.

MIKE FORD: Yeah, that was an extremely long race for us. You know, the first hundred laps went pretty eventless. I knew Denny was making laps, trying to work on our car, wasn't really pushing the car. But made it difficult to adjust knowing that he was leaving a little bit out.

So had to read between the lines there a little bit. But you get the first half of the race here at Pocono clean, you know the second half is going to get pretty active. I was real concerned about that. It turned out to be that way.

All strategies came into play. You had different tire strategies, fuel strategies, then you had guys on three different sequences of tires at the end of the day to add for a pretty eventful end to the race.

Track position was key. I think the key for us winning that race was two restarts that Denny made when we gave up track position. That was the key to us winning the race. You didn't want to give up track position, but you needed fuel at some point.

THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by team owner Coach Gibbs. You had a heck of the day the way it was. Could have had a better day. Talk about where the Gibbs organization is now 14 races in.

COACH GIBBS: I think what's happened to us, our drivers and our teams have done a great job of working together. As an example, I think here obviously Denny, this is his favorite racetrack. If you would have asked Kyle last week, he probably would have rated this the toughest racetrack for him. Joey, very similar statements would come from him.

I think they've kind of fed off of Denny and Mike. Crew chiefs, Zippy and David over there, have fed a lot off the 11 car. Such an example of teamwork. People say you have three different cars, but really truly it takes great teamwork at this level.

I think it's been Kyle at some mile-and-a-half stuff helping Denny. So I think right now both of them have really helped Joey. Joey, I thought this was probably his best race today. We were extremely disappointed with what happened there.

But I also think right now teamwork has been the key for us. We've got I think all three of our guys right now, we're thrilled about where we are. Now this can all turn on a dime. We know how pro sports are. I'm never confident or I don't think anybody on our team feels like we've arrived for sure. It's just the last seven, eight weeks, we've had a very good seven, eight weeks. That's very hard to do in pro sports.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q: Mike, it's always nice to talk to the smartest guy in the room. You are the smartest guy in the room talking about how to get to Victory Lane at Pocono. What was the secret today?

MIKE FORD: I think you need to ask someone else, because I'm definitely not the smartest guy in the room (laughter).

I think I was in a position where we got a good race team and a confident driver. You know, we looked at Pocono, where we're at in the points. We said, Okay, we're going to look to Pocono to 10 point it. We had our eyes set on winning this race or nothing.

We called it that way. Denny drove it that way at the end. As far as Chase points go, we just look the lead in our eye here. So this was a very important race for us. We've got confidence coming here to Pocono.

Practice the last two days, we were close, but we weren't where we thought we needed to be, so we had to make some changes. Like Coach said, the three cars unloaded really close to each other. We fed off each other. Dave learned some stuff from us, Zippy learned some stuff from us, and we learned stuff from both of those guys. At the end of the day, you see the fruit from that. That's what's encouraging.

I think you're just talking to a guy that was in the right situation.

Q: Coach, Joey usually seems like a pretty mellow guy. Were you surprised at the magnitude of his reaction? Did you talk to him afterwards?

COACH GIBBS: I think we probably missed the fire that's inside of Joey. You're talking about somebody we signed when he was 15 and we kind of watched him race at different places. I think he does have a real fire. Now, he controls himself. He's somebody that rarely gets out of control. But I definitely think he's got a real passion for what he does. It means a lot to him.

I would have said this race was probably his best race. I think Denny has helped him a lot here from last year to this year. I thought this was his best race he drove. It was a shame to have it taken away from him there at the end.

I think it's one of those things right now, looking at the video, talking it over, I always lean heavily on the drivers. I'm kind of anxious to talk to Joey. I know they're meeting with NASCAR. It will be interesting to see where that shakes out.

THE MODERATOR: We're also now joined by today's race winner, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota, Denny Hamlin. Tell us about your run.

DENNY HAMLIN: We had a good run. We knew right from the get-go that first run when we took the lead early we had a good car. I felt like the track stayed pretty consistent. Our car stayed pretty consistent. There was some stuff, going back on it now when we come back that we'll probably change to make our car a little bit better.

We just conserved for most of the day. I wrote it on the dash because I knew I was going to have to use it all at the end. Races don't come easy when you run first or third and you get the win at the end. There's always a wrench that kind of gets thrown in there and messes up your whole plan.

I knew it was going to be important to save everything I could till the very end, and when I needed to get more out of it, I could.

THE MODERATOR: This is Denny's fourth victory and sixth top 10 in 2010 and his fourth victory here at Pocono Raceway.

Q: How worried were you when you were 16 laps down, just about 30 laps to go?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I mean, we hadn't passed about third all day long, which is relatively clean air. Clean air is very, very big at this racetrack. Every position you gain, it's that much better.

So I was fairly nervous because we had had a tight car all day. I mean, we turned wrenches on it every time we came on pit road. You know, so you never know how your car's going to react back there. Especially with 30 to go, we had no choice. We had to pit when it was our fuel window. Other guys were going to try to stretch it. That's kind of how the game plays. When you don't have a winning car, you have to throw caution to the wind. Those guys were able to do that. We had to play it safe and race the guys we knew we raced all day and knew we were going to have to race for the finish.

I was nervous. I knew after about three laps when our car was just cutting through traffic unbelievably, it was going to be a matter of beating the 18 car or the 29. Whoever I raced in that sequence, I had to beat them to the front.

Q: Mike, Denny touched on this. But when you guys made the decision to come in that last time, you had about 30 laps to go, were you pretty much set that was going to be your final stop, there was going to be nothing else to bring you back onto pit road?

MIKE FORD: At that point wanted to see what was going to transpire from there. After we pit and got fuel, I was actually wanting to the time before and stretch it. But that was going to be an aggressive call. I knew if we get a green-white-checkered we were going to be in trouble. So we let it go one more time.

When we pit, at that point, no, I was not dead set we were going to stay out. But when we went back running, we ran four laps, and half the field came in at that point. That told me that they just made their bed, they're going to stay out. I knew there was going to be a cushion there if a caution did come out. There was about 14 or 15 cars that had pit. So I knew what they were thinking.

At that point when those guys pit, our bed was made, as well, with them. I was going to give up four or five laps to those guys because I think we were better than all those guys. That last caution, when half the field came, is when I decided that.

THE MODERATOR: Mike, congratulations. Cut you loose to get to inspection.

MIKE FORD: Thanks.

Q: Coach, could you talk about the tone you try to set with this team. Is it somewhat similar to what you did in the National Football League in terms of keeping everything together? With these three drivers, do you have one that one needs a kick in the pants one week...

COACH GIBBS: I don't think so. I think our guys, they pretty much -- these guys are pros. I think as much as anything, what you try to do as an owner, our job, this is a team sport, what we try to do is surround them with all the things it takes.

That's what's so hard about motorsports. You got to have great crew chiefs. You got to have everybody going over the wall. You got to have an engineering group, all the technical stuff back at the shop. You got to have great motors. You just go right down the line.

I think the problem with most people, today if you had to start a race team, we started the first year we had 16 people, today it would probably take 80 to do that job. So I think our job, you know, J.D. and myself, is to try and give Denny everything, Kyle, Joey, everything they need to win races with. That's kind of our job.

It's just like football from the standpoint it's a people's sport. I always said anybody good in this sport would be good in football, and anybody good in football would be good over here. It's working with people.

Q: Denny, you could talk about the setups, how this worked, that worked to get you to victory. Really the bottom line is, it's always here at Pocono. The majority of your wins are here. What is it that you just happen to have with this track?

DENNY HAMLIN: It's tough to say, I mean, because we've won here in different cars, different lines. The patch is no longer a huge advantage like it used to be in turns three, so I was kind of cutting across that. Much different line than what guys were running.

I don't know. I just search around and seem to find what works. The thing is, though, I've got cars good enough to where I can run 80% all day and still be able to keep up with the guys. That's what makes it easy for me to look really good is the fact that I don't have to push my car over the limit and it still has speed.

Q: Denny, how close were you to getting the white flag before the caution came out?

DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, right there. The thing is, right before -- with two laps to go, I asked Mike, I said, Hey, should we start conserving just for fuel? I was running the last 10 laps once we had the lead hard enough to make sure the guys weren't catching us. I said, Should I slow down, make sure we have enough fuel in case of a green-white-checkered? He said, No, get that white flag as quick as you can, come around this track as fast as you can. The second half of the lap, I picked it up. I was like, All right, I'll try to get there. I realized anything can happen.

I was, I mean, a hundred yards maybe from the start/finish line when the caution did come out. Just such a tough spot to be in because I didn't know what line to restart in. Kyle is good on restarts. Tony was fighting us pretty hard there at the end. I mean, you got one in the bag and it looks like you're about to carry the trophy away and something happens.

That's why I like winning them better this way, though. It's not just walking away; you really got to earn it.

Q: Denny, what was your reaction when you see the white flag change to yellow? Can you describe that last restart.

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, believe me, I think that they have the yellow flag in their hand instead of the white. They're just waiting on something (laughter). There's no way they switch flags that quick. I think they had it, were ready to go with the yellow.

For the show purpose, it was good. But it was a legitimate caution. I was just looking around, all around that racetrack, for any debris. I was going to call BS if they had a debris caution right there. I was glad that that didn't happen. It was a legitimate reason unfortunately for my teammate.

You know, I knew the key was just getting off turn one ahead of those guys. Once I did that, I knew it was pretty much race over.

Q: (No microphone.)

COACH GIBBS: Actually, we didn't. If you go back in history and think about it for a minute, when we started our first year, we didn't win a race. The best, we had one second in there. I mean, it was a tough first year. What misleads everybody is the second year we won the Daytona 500. That was one race. Then we kind of went the next two years with not much happening.

This is an extremely tough sport. I thought we started off, you know, kind of having to fight our guts out. I think you stay in something long enough, we've now been in 19 years. J.D. was here from day one. Todd. Most of our management team. Jimmy. Those guys have all been here. We saw every nut and bolt put on. That's one thrill to be a part of that, to see where we are today.

I'm always so nervous. J.D. says it best. If you don't run well up here, you're not going to be up here very long, I don't care at what point.

I think it's a little bit misleading in that we won that Daytona 500 and everybody thought we had immediate success. We didn't. I'm not so sure we won more than one race the first three years or something. I'm not even sure what we did the fourth.

Q: Denny, you have now come back in the last two months from being well outside the top 12 to being the top seed in the Chase. I know it's early, but how much does that mean to you? How do you kind of judge where you are in the championship right now?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I mean, I feel like we're one of four or five guys that really are legitimate, week in, week out, up-front guys. That's a good feeling right now. But it's very tough to stay on top of any sport for an entire year. Our sport is a rollercoaster. It goes up and down. It has waves. Your performance always comes in waves.

But definitely very confident in what we have, you know, planned for the Chase, the cars we have planned for the Chase. Right now we are being conservative, believe it or not, in our attempt for this season. Hopefully we peak at the right time. I mean, anyone would say, Yeah, you're peaking now. Really I feel like the best is yet to come.

Q: Joe, I wanted to touch on Joey one more time. You've dealt with a lot of conflicts in your time in the NFL and racing. Joey has taken the high road on more than one occasion. He's been knocked around a little bit, a rookie hazing so to speak. As you advise him, how do you create that balance of making sure he has that off-track respect in terms of how he conducts himself but he also has the respect of the other drivers? You can only get punched so many times before you start punching back.

COACH GIBBS: I think up here the drivers, to be quite truthful, I rarely talk to them, whether it's Denny getting in some kind of a situation with somebody, because they have to handle that. I think we just encourage them. We surround Joey, just like we do here. We have Mike McLoughlin working with him over there. Mike has raced forever. I think we have the right people around him. Zippy has been around for a long time. I think they coach him up probably more than I would or J.D. would.

But I think the drivers kind of handle that. But I think it has been kind of a situation where, you know, he's been the young guy, and he's probably been knocked around some. You kind of hate to see that.

But I think he'll do the right things. We think he's a gifted young guy. I think he always seems to approach things the right way, too. I'm proud of that, that he generally, you know, for Joey, Joey is going to take the high road.

Q: Denny, could you talk about doing this well after the ACL, the surgery.

DENNY HAMLIN: You know, I expected by now to be back to somewhat normal. But still it bothers me at times, but nothing inside the racecar. I'm glad to get it over with. I'm glad I didn't wait. I'm glad we decided to do it when we did. Obviously, had some great doctors, great people working with me in rehabilitation. Work with them still each and every day just about.

Yeah, I got to thank Coach and them for not ripping me a new one for getting injured. I think they understand, being active outside of racing, is part of it. It's kind of a stress relief for myself. That's what I use it as anyways. I feel like, if anything, it's helped me stay focused. I think anyone with any injury that has to play with it, it just keeps them focused maybe even more on doing their job.

Q: Denny, you said the car was three for three. What were the other two races you used it at?

DENNY HAMLIN: Martinsville and Darlington. It's won at many different types of racetracks.

Q: Did Mike give you any hell for hitting the wall on the burnout?

DENNY HAMLIN: They weren't happy about it. I hate to put a damper on Victory Lane, but that does it, that's for sure. But that car hadn't been touched since Martinsville. We ran it at Darlington and won with it. I told Mike I want this car when it gets retired obviously for the collection for the Southern 500 reason. But obviously I wouldn't want to damage a car that I'm a future owner of.

COACH GIBBS: I'm not so sure you can afford it.

DENNY HAMLIN: We got to work that deal out still (laughter).

Q: Tony was in here and he was a little upset as he tends to be sometimes. He said some of the racing out here was some of the worst he's seen for a long time. You were in traffic towards the end. Is that a fair characterization of what was going on?

DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, I think it's just like Talladega: guys don't race until they have to. That's just a product of the distance of the races, knowing that you're going to have cautions at the end. I don't think anyone pushes it at the beginning. You don't go three wide, four-wide. We were four-wide for the lead at one point. Where else are you going to see that?

There is a lot of single-file racing here, but it's because we drivers are in conservative mode for the first half. We know it's a long race. When the winner comes from 16th with 30 to go, what more can you ask for really?

Q: Coach, what's worse, seeing your driver on the burnout hitting the wall or a receiver spiking the ball on the one yard line?

COACH GIBBS: I have to tell y'all the truth, I didn't know he hit the wall until I got here.

No, obviously this costs a lot more (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, congratulations. Thank you for your time.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin