Daytona 500: Denny Hamlin - Friday media visit

DENNY HAMLIN, DRIVER OF THE NO. 11 FEDEX MONTE CARLO SS TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT WORKING WITH TEAMMATES IN THE DRAFT, WINNING LAST YEAR'S BUD SHOOTOUT, AND AVOIDING THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP WHAT HAS CHANGED IN THE LAST YEAR? "So far here in Daytona...

DENNY HAMLIN, DRIVER OF THE NO. 11 FEDEX MONTE CARLO SS TALKED WITH MEDIA ABOUT WORKING WITH TEAMMATES IN THE DRAFT, WINNING LAST YEAR'S BUD SHOOTOUT, AND AVOIDING THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP

WHAT HAS CHANGED IN THE LAST YEAR? "So far here in Daytona the help that is behind me has changed the most. Last year I was struggling just to find a little bit of help. You had to look to guys with yellow stripes on their bumpers as well to try to get a little bit of help. It's tough to say what has really changed for me in the last year because of a lot of things have stayed the same. That's kind of the way I want to keep it."

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO WORK ON? "The biggest thing that I've got to work on is just fine tuning our car and not getting overzealous with the conditions that we were in. Ultimately in the race things are just a lot different. When we get a 43-car pack out there, whatever it was handling is going to be worse. We got a decent starting spot and I'm pretty happy with that. It's just really fine tuning it from here on out."

ARE YOU PRETTY CLOSE TO WHERE YOU NEED TO BE WHEN THEY WAVE THE GREEN FLAG ON SUNDAY? "Yeah, I'm fairly close. I'm definitely in the line that I'd prefer. We're in a good spot. We're not totally up front. We're right there in the top 10 and that's all that matters. Handling is going to be such a big deal, after 10 laps you're going to be strung out anyway."

HOW MUCH DID YOUR SUCCESS HERE LAST YEAR AT THE SHOOTOUT AND RUNNING THE DAYTONA 500 LAST YEAR HELP YOUR CONFIDENCE? "I was just talking to Mike (Ford, crew chief) 30 seconds ago about how he thought the 150s were probably the best superspeedway race he'd seen me run just because I'm getting a little more comfortable with how I need to maneuver myself to put myself in position. I told him it's just going to come with time. I'm not going to be Tony Stewart right now. I'm not going to be one of the guys that just go right to the front and stay there all day. I just don't have that kind of experience at superspeedways yet. It's getting better and that's all we can ask for."

HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED SO QUICKLY? "It's tough to say. I don't know whether it's the horsepower of the cars or what it is really because obviously I'm not used to the speeds that we are running from my past or anything. I think sometimes you adapt to certain vehicles and the Cup cars seem to fit that better than anything right now."

IF YOU CAN GET UP TO WHERE TONY STEWART IS IN THE RACE, CAN YOU TWO WORK TOGETHER OR IS HE IN A CLASS OF HIS OWN RIGHT NOW? "Tony is awesome on superspeedways. Tony has a lot of help as well. When guys get behind him, they want to push him because they know he can win and they want to go to the front. He gets a lot of help and he knows how to get those runs to the lead. I definitely think I can help him once I get there and he can help me because he's helped me time and time again. We're just one step behind on our setup from where they are at but we're a lot closer than what we were a week ago on it."

IS TONY STEWART A FAVORITE FOR SUNDAY? "It's hard to say that he's not. He's won just about everything but those guys got their cars pretty well. I got to ride behind him yesterday and their car really looked strong. I think the 38 is probably the strongest car of the whole bunch. Whether the experience level will come into factor or not, you never know. He's got a really, really fast car but Tony can take a car that is a little bit worse and win with it and he's proven that."

ON THE EXPECTATION LEVEL OF HIM THIS YEAR VERSUS LAST YEAR: "To me it's kind of amazing a little bit. We've still got to prove ourselves especially to the media and everything. We look all around and nine times out of 10 you see the headline that I won't make the Chase this year, that we're going to have problems and this, that and the other. Evidently we've still got to prove ourselves and prove that we're a championship contending team and we're going to do it again."

WHAT WILL CALIFORNIA BE LIKE AFTER ALL THE HYPE OF DAYTONA? "I'll be looking forward to it because we're going back to the normal racing, the racing where the driver has a lot of input. The setup wise, means a whole lot. For us it's back to the basics when we go back to California. Honestly I like Daytona but it's good to start your real racing next week."

WHAT NOTES CAN YOU TAKE FROM THE LAS VEGAS TEST TO HELP YOU IN CALIFORNIA AND THEN IN VEGAS? "Vegas is so much different than California now that you really can't transfer anything. The speeds are about the same but the banking of Vegas now is just a lot different. It will be interesting to see how Vegas ends up, they're having problems with the tires and I think they are shortening up the fuel cells again. It's tough to say how the racing is going to be."

ARE THERE ANY CHANGES YOU GET FOR BEING IN YOUR SECOND YEAR VERSUS COMING HERE AS A ROOKIE? "Everything really stays the same for us. The only thing that is really different is that things have kind of slowed down a little bit. I don't have to do all those things (where) the rookie has to earn his place in the sport. I'm still doing those things and still want to do them. We're definitely taking it more easy on the schedule. I had a tough schedule last year, a lot of things going. We took this year and said we were going to have a little bit more fun with it and be more focused on our Cup program."

HAVE YOU THOUGHT OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AFTER DRIVING? "I might be owning a team one day but that's a whole other endeavor. Yeah, if you're looking to throw away money just own a team. That's what J.D. says anyway (laughs). I'd like to own a team one day. Hopefully at one point in my career I'll hopefully be able to have the opportunity to do that.

HOW DO YOU AVOID THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP? "Run good. It's tough to say how you avoid it. There's nothing that we can do to avoid it. If we're going to have a slump, it's going to be because of bad luck. I don't think it's going to be because we didn't run well. I know as a driver, I'm going to be a better driver this year than what I was last year just because a lot of these race tracks I'll actually be going to for a second time. It seems like I've looked at stats and stuff and every time I've gone back somewhere it's been better. I'm really looking forward to the tracks that I do have a lot of experience at and I know the cars that we are bringing to track are better than ever. I look at the wind tunnel notes. I look at everything. So if the driver is better and the cars are better, we should be better as a whole. We just have to see whether we took two steps in the off-season and how many steps did the competition take. I think luck is basically what is going to happen."

AFTER A GREAT ROOKIE SEASON, WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE TEAM MAKE SOME IMPROVEMENTS THIS YEAR? "It's tough to say. We kind of struggled on pit road last year a lot, especially during the Chase. But I tell you, this year so far at Daytona we've been on it. I've gained six, seven spots every time I've come in the pits. I think a lot of it is they see how dedicated I am to one, the training program and two, the whole racing program. They're seeing that I'm working hard. I want it bad so they're working extra hard to make sure I'm getting everything possible. I rode them pretty hard last year and it's paying off this year so far."

AFTER HAVING THAT SUCCESS, HOW HARD WAS IT TO WAIT SEVERAL MONTHS BEFORE GETTING BACK IN AND BUILDING ON THAT SUCCESS? "Well the good thing is we ended the year on a really good note.

"We gained more points than anybody during the Chase last year and ended with a couple top-three finishes and that's what I wanted to do. Regardless of where we ended up in the Chase I wanted to have good finishes to just have momentum going into the next year. I feel like we had that, even though a lot of people don't think so. We're going to have a lot better year than people think."

WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO GET TO VICTORY LANE SUNDAY? "A lot of help at the right times that's for sure and we're getting a lot of help from guys that we didn't have help from last year. Then again our cars are a lot better. I think it's just going to be placing yourself at the right time and evidently you've got to be somewhere around Tony if you want to see the checkered flag first."

DOES IT BOTHER YOU PEOPLE SAY YOU WON'T MAKE THE CHASE? DOES IT MOTIVATE YOU? "It's a huge motivation. Actually in the lounge of this trailer there's some magazine where it had eight people's picks of the top 10 and we might be in two of them so it's motivation.

"You look at the past and some guys have problems their second year but you look at most of them and they have better years than what they've had. There's no reason that we should be taking a step backwards. We're going forward from here on out."

DO YOU FEEL PHYSICALLY DIFFERENT IN THE CAR BASED ON YOUR TRAINING PROGRAM? "Yeah, a lot different. I've worked at it really hard and tried my best to stay focused and stay motivated on it. You kind of get motivated when guys like Tony say that we're going to stick to it and we're going to do it. Me and him have just been hard at it just about every day. You kind of having a recovery time after a race. It was Wednesday for me really before I could really recover from what I experienced over the weekend. Now it's the next day, the night of. I just feel better in that aspect. Normally after the hit I had at the shootout I'd be sore and now I'm fine. There's certain aspects that benefit whether you see it or not. It's definitely when you feel better you're definitely going to be a better driver."

WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST PART OF YOUR FITNESS PROGRAM? "Probably (getting up early) in the morning. When I talked to my trainer he asked what time I wanted to do these things and I said just about whenever. He asked how I like mornings and I said 'I really don't do mornings' but they get me out of bed. If I'm ever late they kick me out of bed so I have no choice to show up."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Denny Hamlin