Daytona Media Day - Hamlin




DO YOU THINK TOYOTA WILL BE SUCCESFUL RIGHT OUT OF THE BOX? "It just takes these bodies so long to get where they need to be. Even with the '06 Monte Carlo, we're still just making it better, making it better. Last year we changed a lot of things on the car and it just takes years and years with one body style to get it to be competitive on Superspeedways. You learn what each body likes so I think that's the kind of hurdle Toyota's going to have at Daytona, just dealing with that Superspeedway car in such a short time.

"Or hit it on the first draw and get lucky."

DO YOU THINK THAT FEARS OF TOYOTA DOMINATING BY OVERSPENDING ARE OVERBLOWN? "Yeah, I just find it hard to believe that they're going to really push anyone out. I think that like in the (Craftsman) Truck series, it's just going to force everyone else to step up."

DO YOU ANALYZE WHAT YOU DID RIGHT OR WRONG LAST YEAR OR DO YOU JUST SORT OF 'GO WITH IT'? "I'm definitely tough on myself a lot of times and I really probe myself on what I do right, what I do wrong. There's just a lot of areas that I knew last year I really could improve on. And that's what kind of gave me the confidence that I could make it in the sport; it's knowing that I had the success that I did with as much inexperience as I had. And what I knew I could get better with in time, our opportunities were just analysts for the next few years."

DO YOU HAVE A SCHEDULE MANAGEMENT? "Yeah, we're definitely taking more time off this year than we had last year. Last year, performance-wise I can't really say that it affected that but at the same token, I was just worn out at the end of the season. There was no two ways about it. I couldn't concentrate at times I was just so tired and dragged down. I could not go one more race. Homestead was it for me. We definitely set a lot of good time off this year and it's just going to keep on improving hopefully our performance."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE STRESS OR LACK OF STRESS ON REPEATING YOR SUCCESS? "Well, there's really no stress to me and there's really no worries about sophomore slump or anything like that. I think that's just more team-related than anything. Your cars and your equipment that you're under today means so much that you put that in the hands of your team to work really hard in the off-season to be better at things. I know that they're coming to the track with better race cars and I need to come to the race track this year as a better driver so that's what it's going to take just to maintain where you were at last year. With 55 teams or whatever that's going to show up it seems like every single week it's going to be tough. You're going to have really good cars going home and it's going to make running in the top 20-25 that much harder. To me the challenge is exciting and I think that's when we really perform our best, it's under pressure."

SLIMMED DOWN A LITTLE? "Yeah, I definitely have lost a lot of weight over last year but the biggest thing is that I needed to be a whole lot more physically fit than I was last year. There was times during a race where I just didn't feel good and the biggest thing too, is your recovery. You want to feel better on Monday. You don't want to take three days to recover, especially when you have appearances on Monday or Tuesday. You can't really recover until, it seems like, right before the (next) race. To me it was just something that I had to do and I'm glad I did it."

WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR LACK OF MISTAKES TO LAST YEAR? "I hope it wasn't freshman luck but it might be. Who knows, really. Until we go out here and we see where we're at, probably in the first 10 races, we're not going to know whether it was a fluke or not. And to say we put 36 really good race weeks together is hard to say that it was a fluke. Anything can happen in this sport. We've seen teams dominate one year and they can't hit their tail the next year. We're going to see where we're at."

BUT YOU DIDN'T REALLY MAKE A LOT OF MISTAKES. "No, I think that that was just more. coming from my background I always had to work on my own race cars. I had to do all that stuff before so I kind of respected what I was under. Back then, if we wrecked, we weren't going to race the next week. We weren't going to race the next night so I kind of took that same mentality into the Cup series. Even though I wasn't working on them; even though I wasn't paying for them, you know, you take care of your equipment and it will take care of you in the long run - that worked for me."

ARE YOU GOING TO BE AS CALM AND COLLECTED THIS YEAR AS YOU WERE LAST YEAR? "I'm still going to be the same guy that I always was. I don't think I've changed and I've talked to a lot of people and they said I haven't changed. That's a part of just keeping a level head and to me it's going back home and seeing a lot of people that I haven't seen in a long time, that kind of keeps me level and keeps me on the same frame as the family. I have no choice with the family, I guess. Staying level to me is easier than what people say it is."

YOU KNOW DALE JR. PRETTY WELL, HAVE YOU NOTICED HIM BEING STRESSED OUT ABOUT THIS WHOLE CONTRACT SITUATION? "We really haven't hung out enough in the off-season to really dive into that. I think we're as close of friends as we are because when we hang out with each other we rarely talk about racing. If I go to his motorhome on the weekend we talk about our race cars and everything like that but when I go over to his house or we go out or something like that he's a different guy. And the best article that I've seen that describes him is that USA Today article. I don't even read articles about myself. I always look at the pictures. but that one I actually sat down and read and it was the first thing I've read in about a year. So I thought that it was a really good story and it really described the way he is."

WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR TONY STEWART THIS YEAR? "He's already started off the year with a couple wins and a couple wins as an owner so he's definitely started the year off strong. I think that the physical part of it is really underestimated. People said that when he was overweight he was still winning races and dominant and I think it really kind of had an affect towards the end of the season. I think that's just going to make him better and it kind of gave me the motivation to do what I did in the off-season."

DID YOU SAY YOU LOST SOME WEIGHT? "Yeah, I definitely gained a whole lot more muscle than I had last year. Not necessarily muscle loss, which is really fat loss. I hired a trainer, same company from which Tony's guys came from and I've felt better ever since. It took me about one week to realize that I should have done this years ago. I've always been just a little bit chunky through my whole career, even when I was racing late-models and that. I know what it's from, it's sitting on the couch and not being motivated. It just keeps getting worse and worse. It's something that I just feel better now and hopefully it will make me a better driver."

HOW MUCH DID YOU LOSE? "I've lost roughly ten pounds but I've been doing it for roughly 10 straight weeks and I work out really, two-and-a-half hours a day. Every single day. Lot of free weights stuff and a lot of cardio stuff and I got my O2 tested so I know how to burn the fat. I'm on a nutrition plan so to me, that's priceless inside of a race car, being physically fit. Guys like Bobby Labonte and Carl Edwards, Carl's kind of what Bobby was back in the day. He's just a guy who is really physically fit and I think it makes him a better race car driver."

DO YOU PAY THEM WHAT TONY PAYS THEM? "Not hardly. He's got a live-in. He's got a girlfriend that works him out but I didn't go that far with it. If I'm on the road he calls me and I took him at the Daytona test to the facility and see what I need to do and he wrote it down and says 'if you do this every day we're going to have issues.' He's a little bit bigger than me so I don't want to have to tussle with him." (laughs)

HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE ON THE PLATE RACES? DID YOUR WIN AT THE SHOOTOUT HELP? "To me, a lot. It was different in the Shootout I was kind of put in circumstances where things worked out where a guy without a lot of help could get to the front. That's what got me to the front. Once we had the green/white checkered flag then we had the really good push at the end. Other than that at the other Superspeedway races I was mid-pack or so and just couldn't figure out what I needed to do to just get to the front. I think I learned a lot of that through Busch racing. I learned over the course of the season on how to get better. Because I ran towards the front in the Busch car and I struggled with the Cup car. And like I said before, a lot of that is help but I think a lot of it was me and learning what I needed to do. Practice makes perfect in Superspeedway racing. The more you do it, the better you're going to get. Guys like Dale Jr., he had his father to kind of lean on to teach him things but I really don't have anyone like that that I'm close enough with to kind of help me. So I think it's more on-track that helps you than anything."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Carl Edwards