DENNY HAMLIN , No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 1st Daytona 500 Starting Position: 4th What does it mean to get to Victory Lane at Daytona? "This was a great effort by the team. That's what it's all about.
, No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Gatorade Duel 2 Finish: 1st
Daytona 500 Starting Position: 4th
What does it mean to get to Victory Lane at Daytona?
"This was a great effort by the team. That's what it's all about. The team did a great job preparing this car for me. It feels great to get into Victory Lane at Daytona, and to get Toyota its fir st Cup win is special."
Can you talk about the pass you made on Tony (Stewart) to win the race?
"We knew it was going to take one of us to pass the other for either one of us to win this race. We knew the 24 (Jeff Gordon), 8 (Mark Martin) and 9 (Kasey Kahne) were planning something behind us. I did my best block the 24 on the outside. Luckily, he gave me a break and didn't push the issue. He could've caused a wreck. Thanks to Jeff (Gordon) for that. When he did, he gave me the push to get around Tony (Stewart). Luckily, Tony got cleared enough to give us the push at the end."
How did your car handle throughout the race?
"Our car handled phenomenally. I've never had a car that handled this well relative to other cars. I'm very pleased with the team's effort. When the tires wore off, our car really started to excel. Even when there was a pack, we could pretty much pass by ourselves on the high or low side. We need a little more practice, but we're going to be pretty tough."
Did you think you had a car capable of winning today?
"I thought we definitely had a very strong car. I definitely thank the motor room for doing such a good job of getting these motors down here and prepared for us to try to run this race. You know, luckily we were able to find a problem earlier in the week. So, we haven't exactly remedied it with this motor, but in the ones coming hopefully we will. I definitely give credit to them and Mike (Ford, crew chief) for obviously the great-handling race car. I couldn't really ask too much more of it. Just kind of made the moves there at the end that we had to make to ensure that one of the two of us was going to get a win."
What does it mean to get the first NSCS win for Toyota?
"Very proud. I definitely was a big guy that liked to switch over to Toyota. We knew they had a lot of resources that we were not able to do with the 400 or so employees that we have at Joe Gibbs Racing. I definitely was a guy that was behind it a hundred percent. It's finally starting to pay off. I think they had some engine issues last year they said they wanted to work on, mainly being corner exit. It feels like from my standpoint they've got that fixed. So, as soon as we drivers come up with something else that we need to work on with the engine program, I'm sure between Joe Gibbs Racing and TRD they're going to get it fixed. That's something that we just can't do with the allotment of people that we have at Joe Gibbs Racing. So really to give those guys their very first win, and so early into the season, is definitely a proud moment for myself and everyone at FedEx."
What did you and Tony (Stewart) discuss on the red flag concerning the run to the checkered flag?
"Tony kind of clued me in on Jeff's habits over the years of what he does on restarts to try to, you know, get guys at the very end. I think I was more on the brake there after they threw the green than I was actually on the throttle -- making sure, you know, me and Tony didn't pull away and he had basically the whole field behind him with a huge run. So, basically I just wanted to keep my rear bumper to his front bumper instead of him driving up to my rear bumper. I was using the brake to make sure I was attached to his front bumper, that way I had a huge run on Tony. Obviously, we knew with the huge run we had going down the back straightaway, if I would have chose to hit Tony there that would have been a huge opportunity for Jeff to pull down and pass really both of us with relative ease. We knew at the end it was going to be tough for us to finish one-two by simply riding that way. We needed to kind of almost exchange positions to kind of get that finish we needed at the end, because we knew the 24 (Jeff Gordon), the 8 (Mark Martin) and the 9 (Kasey Kahne) were all planning something behind us."
Is there the same sense of accomplishment winning with only half of the 43-car field in the race?
"It definitely feels good. We had opportunities during the course of that race where I think we were one-two-three, myself, Kyle (Busch) and Tony (Stewart). That's what we were looking for. Unfortunately, Kyle got in the situation where when we were one-two-three the rest of us can't sit behind, we have to make moves or the guys are going to make moves on us. I chose to go with Tony during the mid-stages of that race. We knew with Jeff (Gordon) having such a strong car he was going to be on his own as far as working. I think he wanted to work with us, and we wanted to work with him. I needed him in the middle stages of that race, end of the race obviously to pass Tony. But I think, really, we're going to look out for our team first and foremost, manufacturer probably second, and then the guys that we work well with third. And Jeff's one of those guys. So really I think that's why you saw the finish at the end."
Did finishing one-two tell you anything about Toyota's ability to be competitive out of the gate?
"I'm actually a little more excited about the races to come -- the mile-and-a-half, two-mile racetracks -- California, Vegas, those race tracks. All the hard work that we did in the off-season, that's where it's going to show up, not necessarily here at Daytona. Here at Daytona you're going to see what hard work paid off in the engine room, both from Mark Cronquist and the engine guys at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) and TRD (Toyota Racing Development). That's what's going to show up at the race track this weekend. Everything we worked on in the off-season will show up the rest of the races throughout the season. We definitely know we have the engine thing heading in the right direction right now. We just got to make sure we've got the mechanical stuff working."
-credit: toyota motorsports