Atlanta II: Pole winner interview

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Starting Position: 1st Did you know your lap was good enough for the pole? "It wasn't perfect, but I knew it was a good lap. My heart was racing going down the backstretch...

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Starting Position: 1st

Did you know your lap was good enough for the pole?

"It wasn't perfect, but I knew it was a good lap. My heart was racing going down the backstretch because I knew I hit turn one pretty good. I had to check up a little in three and four to keep it on the bottom. I'm not a qualifier and any of my fans know that. I'm usually in the 20s when I win races. Our car has been good all day long. I've been very, very happy with it. I'm typically a really bad qualifier, but I definitely think we have a heck of a race car this weekend."

How has your season been in recent weeks?

"I feel like the last 10 races have definitely been up and down for our team. We went on such a hot streak there and got spoiled a little bit, I guess you could say. Deemed probably the regular season irrelevant from that point on because we knew we were going to get in the Chase. We're going to spend these next two weeks treating these as if they are Chase racing. We found ourselves going for wins so much and going all out trying to get more wins that it probably hurt us in the long run. These next two weeks we're going to points race just as if it's Loudon, New Hampshire."

Are you trying to create momentum in the next two races?

"We won more when we were more worried about just getting into the Chase and solidifying our place in the Chase. We were winning more then. We were calling races as if they were normal, regular season races. Seems like as soon as you kind of get spoiled by all the wins and try to get more wins and you kind of throw caution to the wind and kind of throw a bonsai setup in there. Maybe parts that aren't as reliable as others -- you get your hand bitten. These next two weeks we're bringing everything that we've got to the race track, the best stuff that we have and see how we're going to stack up against the competition these next two weeks."

Are you taking a different approach to the Chase?

"Our Chase starts this weekend. We're bringing the best stuff that we have starting right now. We're not waiting till the Chase, we're bringing what we have to see where we're going to stack up, competition-wise, these next two weeks. Obviously, we brought our best stuff here. We never qualify on the pole, we never qualify in the top-10 so this is a great step and a good sign for our team."

How was your car in race trim?

"I'm going to be cautiously optimistic, but this is the best and fastest car that I've ever had in race trim. It was very, very, very good."

Is momentum for the Chase more important than getting to victory lane right now?

"I think when you try to plan starting momentum in New Hampshire, it's tough to do that. It's just like having all these preseason NFL games and not taking it seriously. Then in week one you're not performing because you didn't go all out in preseason. For us, we're taking it and we're bringing the best that we have. I'm trying to do everything I can just to pretend that the Chase starts here to see what we have and hopefully we start our momentum now to where our momentum is hitting it's stride once the Chase starts. We're not just trying to start it at that particular point. For me, I think it's important for us to really have our game face on these next two weeks so when we get to Loudon, New Hampshire, we're not just hoping and praying that everything we've done comes out and it works that first week. We're working on it and doing it now."

Do you think your approach to the Chase is the same as other teams?

"I think everyone does it differently. I think probably the guys eighth to -- where ever they are fighting for a Chase spot, definitely go their best stuff here at the race track. So, there's four or five or six guys there. The rest of them, you just kind of look at the cars that they're bringing, where they've run them, whether they're new cars, old cars -- and you kind of calculate whether they're bringing their best stuff to the race track or not. Everyone is going to go as hard as they can. But, I think a lot of people do plan on bringing their best stuff. Usually, Indy is the turning point -- where everyone brings out their new stuff and their new technology and everything. So, when everyone did that -- we kind of fell behind. They kind of leapfrogged over us, and now we are bringing out what we feel is our best stuff. It's obviously stacking up against the guys pretty good. Not to say that we don't still have work to do. We still got to work really, really hard. The off-week was good for us because it kind of gave us a chance to kind of reset, reshift our thinking and what areas we are going to work on. I definitely like -- the off-week worked out perfectly for our race team to kind of get back on track."

Are you challenging your team this weekend?

"I mean, whenever we had those mechanical failures -- it's so frustrating for myself. The 11 team has kind of been characterized as the team that has all this potential, but we never can finish 10 weeks in a row. We always have something that goes wrong with our cars, and things like that. It's challenging everyone in the shop to step up and our team on the road to step up. This weekend, everyone has. They've come with a whole new approach and really almost feel like I'm driving for a different race team than I have been for the whole year, when I came to the track this weekend."

Why do you feel like it's like being around a new team?

"I think in the off-week everyone had time to breathe. We just got so caught up in the last Michigan race. We looked at the schedule and said, 'Wow, we can win at Bristol, there's another Pocono, there's another Michigan.' All these race tracks we started naming, it was like we could win every single one of these races. We could have 10 wins when the Chase starts. And, then when something goes bad -- you have a good run and it looks like you're going to win or run really well in the top-five, and you have a mechanical failure, it just beats the guys down so bad. It really is discouraging. Even though coming off a mechanical failure at Bristol -- I think it's just that week that gave everyone a chance to reset and it gave everyone a chance to take a break and realize we have two weeks, our Chase starts nows. It's two weeks to get momentum going. It seems like as soon I'll show up to the race track, everything has gone smooth."

-source: toyota motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing