Hamlin - Michigan Friday Media Visit

Michigan International Speedway

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

What do you think of your performance of late? “It feels good being more competitive here the last six, seven weeks or so. Obviously, last week we didn’t finish it off like we felt like we could have or should have, but still things are positive in the sense that we are running better and contending for victories over these last five of six weeks of so. That part of it is encouraging. Obviously, we enjoy coming here to Michigan because it’s such a raceable race track and so that part it’s always fun coming here because of that.”

Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

Did FedEx deliver the wrong oil pans? “No. Nope.”

Do you feel snake bit at all this year due to weird issues? “It’s frustrating. It’s definitely frustrating from my standpoint because we try to do everything inside the car to make sure I have a car capable of winning at the end of the day. But it’s a team sport and, you know, to win these races everyone has to do a perfect job, a near perfect job and when there’s one hiccup it can just ruin your day. And obviously one bad thing leads to another. Last weekend -- it’s just one thing snow balled into another and we find ourselves racing with no brakes the last 50 laps. It’s frustrating because I know we’re capable of winning and even though we haven’t won this year there’s been quite a few races where I felt like we could or should have. But the sport’s not about that. It’s about what you got in the win column and how you’re performing and the way I see it we’re 12th in points so we still got some work to do.”

Are you encouraged you have run well as of late or discouraged you haven’t won? “It’s fifty, fifty really from my standpoint. We haven’t won. At the beginning of the year we didn’t win because we weren’t capable of winning -- ours cars, I didn’t feel like we’re fast enough and we still also had bad luck on top of it. Now we’re just kind of getting into. We need to figure out how to finish these races like we should. So it’s fifty, fifty. Right now, I’m really encouraged at the fact our cars do have speed now. You’ll win races as long as we keep putting ourselves up front like we have been the last few.”

What do you know about the Joe Gibbs Racing oil pans and do you expect retribution? “I don’t think so, as far as the last part of it. For me, I don’t know a whole lot about it to be honest with you. We continue to evolve our cars and things like that through the course of a season. It’s just, all teams do. And usually when you have something new -- a new part -- sometimes you submit it and sometimes you don’t and I feel like this is probably one of the parts NASCAR wants you to submit. That’s probably the biggest issue they had with it is that you showed up at the prom with a different date.”

Do you know what parts are submitted as a driver? “I don’t know. I think that’s more of a kind of a thing that the crew chiefs and the engineers for the team they talk to NASCAR throughout the weeks and things like that. When they have something new, I believe that really they sometimes submit it and it’s fine and sometimes they don’t submit it and it’s fine. It’s just one of those instances where they were just kind of caught off guard I think.”

How exciting is racing at Daytona International Speedway? “I think it’s an exciting race for everyone. Even the teams and what not that maybe run mediocre at times, Daytona is always their chance to win a race because it puts everyone on such a level playing field no matter what you got under you, you’re capable of winning. I think that part of it is exciting. Now that they’ve repaved it, it almost seems like we’re racing at a different race track. So, for me the Daytona that I won on is the old Daytona and we don’t even run on that anymore. It feels like a total different race track, so it’s hard for me to bring back memories when I feel like I’m racing somewhere else.”

Are you worried about an oil pan penalty impacting your Chase chances? “Yeah. I mean, truthfully, we’re going to need every point we can get at this stage right now. But we still have so much time left that we can win races. We could still get in the top-five in points feasibly. I feel like that that’s where we can and should be when we get to Richmond and we shouldn’t even have to worry about that part of it. But obviously for us every point is critical in our situation right now.”

What have you learned moving up in the new points system? “It’s so hard to tell because usually when you knew you were 160 [points] back, you need to have three solid weeks over someone who runs 12th to 15th every week. This time, I’m still a little confused on how much you need to gain each week. But I really try not to look at the points at this point because it’s just there’s nothing I can do. All I can do is try to get the best finish I can every week. It doesn’t matter what the system is. I still don’t have the grips of how much ground can be gained on any certain week on someone. I don’t know what a safe spot is ‘in.’ I don’t know what a dangerous place is ‘out.’ It’s just so hard to figure that out right now for us, but I know we were – seven, eight weeks ago, we were 120 something, 130 (points) out of the lead, maybe somewhere in that range -- and we’re 70 or 80 (points behind first) or something like that now. So we’ve gained ground on the leader over these last five to six weeks. Had we just finished last week, we’d be sitting in the top seven or eight and we wouldn’t even be talking about this. We’d be talking about how far we can go. But, it’s just one week and we’ll make up for that here hopefully this weekend.”

It’s just not been worth it for me, so I’ve just kind of kept to myself.

Denny Hamlin

Are you trying to stay out of the spotlight and issues this year? “No. I’ve more scaled back just because you’re more open to criticism. You’re more open to put yourself out there to get in something you don’t want to be part of. Of course, if you could just say your opinion all the time with no retribution, then everyone would. But you have to face that at some point and, obviously, last year with certain issues and stuff like that it side tracks you from on-track stuff. It really does and it puts you in a situation you don’t want to be in. So, for me, I’ve just kind of kept my opinions to myself and for that reason because you can face retribution from NASCAR, other teams and things like that. And it’s just better if you have your opinion to keep it to yourself because we’re in a big business where anything you say it’s going to be opened up to a lot of people. It’s just not been worth it for me, so I’ve just kind of kept to myself.”

Are you in a good position to win at this point of the season? “We’re not there yet. I feel like I’m making the best of what we have right now and hopefully around the line here shortly we’re going to have even better stuff. It’s getting better. I feel like at this point, if you asked me 12 weeks ago or 10 weeks ago I’d say we’ve got some serious work to do. I feel like at this point we’ve gained 50 percent on that. We’re definitely not where we were last year as far as the dominance. And, I don’t know whether that was just us being as good as what we were last year or it’s just other teams have really stepped up their program this year. The Roush cars were a non-issue last year and all of the cars are strong this year. Penske -- the same thing. All of the teams, they get better. Anytime any team is behind they work harder to get to where you are and exceed that. I just feel like the field caught up to us this year and surpassed us at the beginning of the year and now we were the bottom and working our way back to the top.”

How special is it to have your dad here this weekend for Father’s Day? “It’s awesome for myself. He doesn’t get to travel to a whole lot of races. He has an old dog that he prefers to stay with on the weekends than fight the hustle and bustle of the races. For him to come out, it’s very obviously special for me. He made a ton of sacrifices for myself through my career. He sacrificed a lot of vacations and a lot of his savings to get me to this point. You pretty much owe everything to your parents who helped get you to this point and I’m no different in that sense.”

Was there ever a sense that you needed a crew chief change earlier this year? “I think it’s something that has to be worked through, but it was never even talked about from our side. Mike (Ford, crew chief) and myself have such a good relationship. He knows how I work and I know how he works and I think it’s the same with Joey (Logano) and Greg (Zipadelli). You switch us and we’d run worse for a long time. So, I feel like he’s the guy that can win me a championship and multiple championships in the future and I had that team with me right now. There’s no way it would even get past me. It would never happen.”

What steps do you take to make sure everyone on the team is working towards the same goal and within the rules? “You have to have open communication and last week the 20 (Joey Logano) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) were struggling really, really bad at Pocono so my priority once we were done is to go help those guys and get them running more competitive and the same thing works over here. Here at Michigan where Kyle (Busch) gets his car good, he comes over and he talks about what he changed to help make our car good. Ultimately, the better they run the more it’s going to help me because I can use their information more and it’s more useful. It’s not just a single-car effort. So, I think all of our guys understand that, that it is a team effort and the more we keep working towards that and the more we work better as teammates the better we’re all going to run. We have to continue to see that in the future.”

-source: toyota motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing
Tags joe gibbs, sprint cup, toyota