Toyota Motorsports press release
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
Do you consider Phoenix a second home track?
"Maybe a little bit. Definitely the garage roster is a little bit heavier this time around than what it was the previous years, but really for me it's good to get back here and, obviously, kind of get our season kicked off really this weekend."
What was it like to escape Daytona without something bad happening?
"Usually at this point we're thinking, 'Okay, well our season starts here. Forget last week,' but usually we're negative a lot of points. So, I mean for us it's good not to have that huge hole that we're starting our season in and, obviously, I'd like to continue to build on that. We don't want to get back to our typical fist five-, six-race start to the year that we usually have, so hopefully if we can start early it can give us a little momentum for the summer months when we need to really start running well and start looking forward to the Chase from that point."
How is your communication with Darian Grubb?
"His (Darian Grubb's) job was relatively easy last week. I mean, I didn't have a whole lot of requests for the car, changes that we wanted to make. Really, ask me in a few hours. That's going to be interesting for me is to see how he does things when he's got to make adjustments to the car during practice especially. For me, I'm excited to see how things are once we do get on track. Really here is the point in where - okay, all these new relationships that's been going in within the garage -- you're going to start to see whose got some work to do and who doesn't."
Did the severity of the penalty for Chad Knaus surprise you?
"No, it didn't surprise me. Someone asked me earlier this week and I think NASCAR does not like the wool to be pulled over their eyes. I feel like that possibly could have happened at Talladega last year and so it was the first real opportunity to inspect things pretty closely. So, I think obviously when you do that you always want to try to stay in NASCAR's good graces and I think that NASCAR has just had heavy eyes for those guys early in the season anyway."
Will you keep your phone in your car?
"No, not during a race situation. I mean, I don't know. Where does it end? What do you do? Do you then text or Tweet during cautions and then you look up and run into the guy behind you. I don't know. When does it -- you've got to have -- there's certain parameters that I guess we've got to all play in, but I don't know if I'm thinking about winning the race, I'm not thinking about social media when I'm under that green flag or yellow flag or any of those conditions. So, I think it's just different people see things important differently."
Is the Penske Racing move to Ford threatening?
"Well, I think we've seen kind of a resurgence with those guys over those last few years. I think that you even look at what they've got going on outside the race track -- they continued to expand and obviously now they're expanding to more teams in the Cup Series and so I know that they've put a lot into the new car, as well as Toyota has. So for me, I think that it's just for them trying to get as many cars on the race track as possible to build their brand and obviously each manufacturer will be doing that -- do some heavy recruiting, because this new car coming up in '13 is something that the manufacturers feel like is going to be selling tool for them."
What are your thoughts on the repaving job here?
"It's good. I think that it's still got probably three more years of aging that needs to be done to it before you're really going to see great racing here. I think that it was extremely tough to pass when we came here in November, which is to be expected with any surface, especially a new surface on a small race track. It's just a tough spot that Goodyear and NASCAR's in when they have to repave a race track, because of construction surface reasons no one really likes to do it, but it was a must in this case obviously. The racing pays a little bit of a price because of it."
How strong were the Toyotas at Daytona?
"We've still got work to do. I think that everyone within Toyota would agree that we've still got some work to do to get our power where we want it. We don't feel like we're ahead of the class by any means, but we're getting there and obviously with every team having TRD engines this year it's going to help with the feedback and when you're going to get consistent feedback on what we need to work on then you're going to have a little bit of sense of urgency of what we need to work on. I think that Daytona specific that obviously none of us qualified well at all. We were towards the way, way back, but it just seems like once the RPM band gets pretty high, it seems like that's when Toyotas seems to run the best. I know in particular our car seems to push on the speedways better than anyone else's and I think a lot of that is because our car continues to build power -- our TRD engines continue to build power up over 9,000 RPM where the other ones seem to be good during qualifying around that 8,000 RPM band, so ours continues to push and that's why we seem to get those big pushes. For us, the good news is most of these tracks we go to we're going to be running up in that higher band, so there's optimism there that we've got something we can work with."
Did you want to hook up with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the end of the Daytona 500?
"Well, yeah. I mean, I didn't quite understand it myself. I obviously -- if you're (Dale Earnhardt) Junior, you've got to know that the 16 (Greg Biffle) and 17 (Matt Kenseth) are going to work together in some way shape or form, so there was an instance where I pushed everyone to the lead that I had been around all day long. I thought that, I'm not sure Junior -- I think he can see that a victory by pushing the 16 -- I didn't think he really had a shot to win making that choice. I think that he had a shot if we linked up either in front or behind. It just seemed like things never really worked out. I was behind the 17. I pushed him out until he went with the 16, so you knew that there was -- I looked around. There was RCR (Richard Childress Racing) cars all behind me. There was the two Roush cars in front of me and Dale Jr. was beside me, so to me it made sense to hook up with the 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), but, I mean, trust me, I was one the radio asking and requesting, but you just you didn't get much cooperation there."
What advice would you give Danica Patrick after what she experienced in Daytona?
"Keep your hands on the wheel. Nah, just kidding. I was totally kidding about that. I think she actually did a good job. I watched her during the 150 (race) mostly, she was in my race. I thought she did a good job. She's picking up her aggression level, which is going to be a must for her to be successful. But really, you just have to have track time. Greg (Zipadelli) and those guys did a good job of getting her back out for track time. It's going to be tough in her spot to get taken out so early in the 500 that she didn't get to really experience the draft like she probably should have. Really, it's just track time. I went to Darlington and the challenge will be for her at Darlington -- I went there for my very first test and it was the first time I ever got in a Nationwide car. I hit the wall 19 times -- we counted -- 19 times. We eventually wore all the sheet metal off of the right side to where there was nothing left. There were just roll bars on the right side. I came back to finish eighth in my first Nationwide race there. It just takes that trial and error there. She's going to get into the wall. All those things are going to happen, but you can't be discouraged -- you have to go back out there and you have to hit it again until you figure out what limit it takes to run fast there. It's going to be a challenge, but she'll figure it out."