Hamlin - NASCAR teleconference, part 1

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Denny Hamlin October 20, 2009 DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to today's NASCAR CAM Video Teleconference in advance for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Martinsville Speedway in...

NASCAR Teleconference Transcript - Denny Hamlin
October 20, 2009

DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everybody, and welcome to today's NASCAR CAM Video Teleconference in advance for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, Virginia. It's the TUMS Fast Relief 500. The sixth event in the 2009 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Our guest today joining us from Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville, North Carolina, is Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota. Denny is currently 11th in the Chase standings and looking to move up at one of his home state tracks. Denny is from Chesterville, Virginia. He has one Martinsville victory in 2008 in the Spring Race at that track. But he's always in contention, and it is definitely one of his favorite tracks.

Denny, you have a great record there. Eight starts, seven Top 10s, five Top 5s and one victory. What is the reason for all that, you think?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think Martinsville is just a racetrack where the driver can make a little bit of a difference if his car's not 100% there. I've got a lot of laps at that racetrack, so the extra experience always helps.

I think some drivers just adapt to certain racetracks quicker than others, and Martinsville has been that for us.

DENISE MALOOF: We'll now go to media questions for today's guest, Denny Hamlin.

Q: I got a two-parter for you. As a graduate of the Joe Gibbs Development Program and a teammate to some other guys, can you speak to the value of development programs in general in JGR specifically, please?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think each one is individual and kind of different, I guess you could say, how the race teams want to use development drivers or programs. Joe Gibbs Racing we have guys running in the East-West Series. We have some running in some Nationwide races for us. Some late model races for us.

What we're trying to do, basically, is we want to have our group of drivers for the future be part of our program and know how things go early in their career and understand before maybe they get to the Cup level, you know, how things work at Joe Gibbs Racing.

I was definitely privileged to be part of Gibbs two to three years before I actually made it to the Nationwide Series on the development side. And, you know, I can't say that it was a huge benefit for me, but it definitely got me involved in the family a little bit more of Joe Gibbs Racing. I think that was a benefit.

So each team, I think, uses it for different reasons, but right now I think Gibbs has one of the best ones going right now.

Q: With you and Joey and now Matt on the near horizon, would you say JGR has figured out how to do it right?

DENNY HAMLIN: I think so. I think they've had most of their development guys actually make it to the cup series eventually. Eric Amarolla was another one who was part of that, and myself, Joey. So, yeah, I mean we've seen the success of the guys that Gibbs has brought up from the lower ranks, and it's shown that they've had talent all the way up to the top.

Q: After the Spring Martinsville Race this year, you suggested that Jimmie Johnson for the contact at the end of the race with battling for the lead. One of the things I asked related to that has anything changed since? Or do you still show that feeling about how to race Johnson as you did after that race?

DENNY HAMLIN: No, obviously, if I'm in the same situation I definitely will have that in the back of my mind and probably will do the same to him. But there's been a couple instances at the end of races, Loudon, New Hampshire, Chicago, where I've nudged Jimmie out of the way with a few laps to go to get a position or something, but it's never really been for a race win.

I'm not going to say that I owe him one or anything like that. But I'm going to race hard to try to get a win, especially in the situation that I'm in right now. I can afford to be a little bit more aggressive. And you know, just do everything I can.

But of course you're going to think if he's in the same situation, second behind me, he'll probably do the same thing again or maybe to someone else. I think any driver -- any driver to be put in the second or first position right now at Martinsville, you're going to have pretty much the same outcome no matter what, whether you owed somebody something or not.

Q: Related to that whether it's you or anyone else, does it matter or should it matter if a driver is, for lack of a better word, paying back someone who is competing for the Chase? So whether it's two Chase guys or one guy, you know, or if it's you and Jimmie again or somebody outside the Chase against you, should it matter that they could impact somebody's Chase chances?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, that's what you hope to build up. You hope to build up the respect for these guys through the first 26 races, so that way those last tens you don't have to worry about being retaliated against by an enemy that you created the first 26 weeks.

So that's why you need to have a clean slate going into the Chase to make sure the guy behind you, even though he's not racing for a championship anymore realizes hey, this guy's cutting me pretty clean breaks through the course of the year, and I'm going to pay him that same respect back.

I know I did when I was a rookie at Martinsville. I had a shot to win that race and I had the same position on Jimmie that he had on me, which was a few laps to go. I backed out. I was a rookie, and you know, even though I was part of the Chase I just felt like I -- he deserved a little bit more respect than me sticking my nose in there.

Q: But for the most part, if it's first or second, doesn't matter Chase or not, you just have to expect the contact and if the second place guy doesn't give it, it's more of a surprise than anything?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I think so. I think the wins mean too much to these race teams. They're going to do everything they can to get it. Right now it seems short tracks are the only place someone can stay close enough to those guys to make a move. So they're going to take every advantage that they can.

Q: Speaking of Jimmie Johnson, with five weeks to go Chase, can you see anyone beating him? Does anyone have a chance in this?

DENNY HAMLIN: I don't think so. If he was 150 behind right now I'd still say he would be the guy to beat. They can just step it up when they really need to. They were running lap times at the end of the Charlotte race that were near qualifying times. I just don't know if anyone else has that ability to step up like that. Especially when the competition is supposed to be as equal as it can based by the rule book.

It's just tough to get anything extra out of your race car. But they just have a little bit extra in the tank, it seems like, when they need it.

Q: I was curious how you'll look back on this Chase. You've been Chase before. And you obviously desperately want to win it or challenge for it. How do you look back on this Chase and what is the difference between maybe finishing third or fourth in the points versus finishing ninth or tenth?

DENNY HAMLIN: That was what my comments were geared towards as far as how our point system is. Yeah, it gave me a chance to win the Championship, but the Chase format also could put us in a situation where we end up 11 or 12th in points whereby the old system we could finish in the Top 5 because of what we've accumulated and accomplished for the first 26 races.

So that point of it is disappointing because you look at the stat sheet. It looks terrible when you finish 11 or 12, when you've been the second, third, fourth best car pretty much all year long. It could happen to Tony. He very well could end up in the bottom half of the Chase if he has a bad week, and he's dominated for the first 26 on consistency.

That's the only problem I have with it. Maybe we're not spread out enough. After the season ends and the Chase begins, why are we only separated by ten points, 20 points, you know, when someone like Tony has accumulated a 200-point lead or what have you? That was only my thing.

It really makes a difference between 12th and 3rd in points and we'd obviously have a shot with that. Obviously, the way the 48 is performing, we're not going to be leading the points in this position anywhere, even if we didn't have the two bad weeks that we had.

However, we could at least be hoping, maybe, that they have trouble at Martinsville or Talladega and still could get in and have a shot at this championship if they have one bad week. But it's just not happened. I saw that he hasn't finished out of the top 15 in 31 or 33 Chase races in a row. That's just hard, hard to beat. Hat's off to them for having that reliability and for having that performance.

But for me this year I'm going to look back on it, and obviously be very disappointed. Because we came into the Chase with so much momentum and have performed extremely well on the racetrack. If they gave points for us running up front for most of the time we'd maybe have a shot at this championship. But, unfortunately, had they don't. It's only on finishing position. That's bitten us right at the very end.

Just a couple of mistakes take you out of it. That's what's going to be disappointing to me to be out of it.

Q: If you run well the last five weeks will that ease the disappointment? Or is it one of those things where if you don't win or you have a mistake like you have, doesn't matter how well you do the other nine races?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, my goal was as soon as California happened, I said let's win one more race, at least one more race before the end of the season. That would get us more wins than we have had in any year at three. We're going to run well. We're going to contend for every race win from here on out, I'm absolutely sure of that. But we need to finish them off, get those wins and try to get as high in the points as we can.

What is feasible for us right now, if we do go on a roll like that is the Top 5 in points. We can get back there if we run and we finish just like we've been running. There is no doubt in my mind we'll contend each one of five weeks. We have no weak track in the last five.

Obviously, with the way the front guys are running right now, it's going to be impossible for a championship unless something absolutely freak happens.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jimmie Johnson , Denny Hamlin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing