Hamlin - NASCAR teleconference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: How good do you see Jimmie Johnson as a driver? Forget Hendrick, forget Chad's the greatest crew chief in the world and all that. Jimmie was talking about Mark Martin and Montoya at how good they are at following the...

Continued from part 1

Q: How good do you see Jimmie Johnson as a driver? Forget Hendrick, forget Chad's the greatest crew chief in the world and all that. Jimmie was talking about Mark Martin and Montoya at how good they are at following the line and picking up his line. He was trying to throw them off and maybe not do things while they were driving behind him, and he was talking about that. What do you think of Jimmie Johnson as a driver? How much has he gotten for all this? Do you ever study other driver's lines when you're on the racetrack right behind them to see if you can pick up what they're doing?

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I don't want what I sound like to be disrespectful to Jimmie, because he is one of the best of our sport for many, many years, and not just in our era, but in past eras. But it's not that Jimmie Johnson's that much better than these drivers out here, especially Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart.

Those guys that have accomplished the highest accomplishments of our sport. He's not that many better than them, he's just got every little thing working for him. He's got a great crew chief in Chad. He's got great race cars. A tremendous amount of horsepower.

We run the same lines. There are a few guys -- I run a little bit different than Jimmie, but there are a few guys that run the same line as him. Our cars don't accelerate off the corner like his. They don't get into the corner like his. And that is what makes the difference. It's those little things that they've gotten figured out is just making him look really, really good.

He obviously does a good job of not making mistakes. And that's where I'd put him above everyone is not making mistakes. Obviously letting his car do a lot of work. Taking it easy on the car in the beginning, working on it, working on it. When he has to push it in the end, he's got the car there for it. He's got the mindset to win those races and that's what makes him the best.

Q: Can you talk at all about how tough it is to be at the number one level in our sport? How hard it is competition-wise just clicking on all cylinders?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, it's tough to not become complacent. And that's what those guys have done. They continue to work no matter whether they're winning races or what. I don't know the internal stuff of the Hendricks Program, or how Chad runs his program.

But I can tell you that they've stayed on top of this sport in all kinds of different cars, in all kinds of different formats because they're not complacent. And they do a really good job of keeping up with everything and keeping their cars on the edge.

That speaks volumes for everyone at Hendrick Race Shop. They have good guys that are not happy about finishing second. They're not saying, well, we ran pretty well this weekend. They're not happy with that unless they win. And even if they do win, they're thinking about how to be faster the next week, as well as everyone is.

So I think that, you know, they've just got it all working right now for them, and they're obviously riding that wave all the way.

Q: Coming from the short track racing and the things that you've done and some of the altercations this year, is it time to bring smash mouth back into racing? Is it time to move guys out of the way and then on pit road be able to express your opinion to another driver? Not physically pushing or punching somebody. But is it time to say this is what I do for a living? This is where I want to be, and this is what I want to do and this is what I have to say to you? Is it time for NASCAR to look the other way and let other guys do what they have to either on the back side or in front of the cameras?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think they've lightened up a little bit. I think NASCAR doesn't mind a few altercations here and there. I've been in those situations obviously in the last couple of months or so. And I've approached NASCAR and said what can I do? What are you going to let me do? If I get really mad, what can I get away with? And they've told me what I can and can't do.

Basically there is too much riding on the line to show too much emotion. You have, obviously, a lot of big-time sponsors in this thing that put your cars on the racetrack and put you in the seat, and they don't want their company looking bad in a negative way. So there is too much riding on it to just, you know, completely show your rear end because something bad happens that weekend.

There is just a much bigger picture to it than what people say. Drivers did what they did back then with all the fights and stuff, because they had no one to answer to except themselves. Their car owner, maybe, but their car owner was as bad as they were. I think it's just the times have changed. There are too many organizations with their names on the line for drivers to really show themselves too much.

Q: But the showing emotion, to show something that, you know, you were running up front and for whatever reason were taken out of a race, you would think a sponsor would enjoy that kind of enthusiasm. No matter how good or how bad it is. Just in my perspective, it would seem to me that a sponsor knowing that a guy is this committed or this focused and was taken out because of whatever reason, would want to see something like that?


Q: And I don't know -- go ahead.

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think there's a little more also to it in the fans' aspect, and the media. The problem with showing he motion is the media will pick you apart and say you're either whining or something like that.

So you're not going to make everybody happy, and next thing you know the media portrays you as a bad person. And the media doesn't appraise someone showing emotion, especially if it's negative toward another driver nowadays. Now you're alienating your fans and everyone else because you have the media saying that this guy's whining about this one or that and other the other. They don't say hey, we like this or that, even though NASCAR may like it.

It's just there is so much. The fans are the other half of the reason why we have the things that we have and have a job. So you don't want to totally alienate them.

Q: Your thoughts on Talladega and some of the safety measures where they've raised the fence another eight feet?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, that's been good. Obviously it always takes something bad to happen to make our sport a little bit better. But that's how we learn. It seems like NASCAR has really taken the lead initiative if something bad does happen, they're the first ones to step in and say, all right, how are we going to improve this for the future?

They're trying to reduce the restrictor plates of the trying to reduce the speed of the cars. I don't know if that's the answer, but if it isn't we at least have higher catch fences to keep us out of the stands.

So I definitely think that that's an improvement. With this car, we're in a box, unfortunately. And we've built all these race cars. They're built to be close to one another. With a restrictor plate on them, you're not going to get them away from one another. I think we're doing all we can with the car we have.

Q: You mentioned regretting the Chase results in a way. But the Chase experience, how much does that carry over to the next season? And how do you compare this Chase experience to the first Chase that you made when you were a bit of a surprise contender that year?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think our first Chase was similar to what Juan's is this year. They were just happy to get in. Once they got in, it was a no-pressure situation for them. Next thing you know they found themselves in a championship position. But, of course, this week was a step back for them as well as Charlotte was for myself in my rookie year. But same mentality, pretty much.

It seems the less experience that you have, you're almost just happy to be there and take whatever it gives you. It's a no-pressure situation. Next thing you know you run a little bit better.

For me, I feel like I know what it takes to win a championship. Obviously, making the mistake last week was the first one in a while. We just didn't run that well last year in the choice, and we finished about where we should have finished. But I compare it to like '07 where we made a mistake mechanically the first Cup of races. And next thing you know I was trying to make it up on the racetrack as a driver I made a couple mistakes and it was a disastrous Chase for us and we finished 12th.

This year is the best we've been as far as on-track performance and having a chance at the championship. But, you know, for whatever reason we just can't keep it together. Whether it's the car or whatever. We're trying. We're doing everything we can to make sure every nut ask bolt is tight on the car. Engines are reliable and all things like that. But it just seems for some reason something mechanically goes wrong each Chase for us.

You know, it's hard to overcome that especially when you have a guy that's won three of the five Chase races. You're pretty much racing for second at that point.

Q: What is Joe Gibbs Racing doing to be in a position next year to outrun the 48 and the Hendrick cars? Do you guys need to spend more money on research and development? Is that the answer?

DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know. I think we need to just sit down again just like we did at the beginning of the season. All of us need to sit down, Michael and Joey, and Joey's going to have a little more input this time, and we need to sit down and talk about the things that we need to work on, and where those guys are beating us. Look through video and find out where they're beating us.

Obviously with the technology we have through Dartfish, that can learn us a lot. We've got to figure it out. And I definitely know where I'm getting beat, but that doesn't always mean you can just necessarily fix that problem. It's a long process to try to find 5 horsepower, or something of that nature, or make your bodies just a little bit better or your chassis a little bit better. That's a long process. It takes a lot of testing to do that. With the testing restrictions that we do have, and not only that, but the time restrictions that we have, we just don't have a lot of time to R and D.

You know, it's going to be a timely process. But right now we are running as competitive through the first half of the race. The next quarter of the race we're pretty good. The next thing you know, the last 20 laps those guys can just step it up, it seems like. This week would have been interesting to see if I would have been able to run the speeds that they did in the end. But, you know, we've just got to sit down and figure it out.

Obviously, no one around here is going to be happy with the position we are in points-wise, and Kyle not making the Chase. So this is going to be a tough off-season around here. There is going to be a lot of hard working done. We're just going to have to plug away at it. Gibbs has done a good job of providing good race cars and cars that can compete for wins through the course of this year. That's all I can ask for. The only thing I can ask for is a little bit more reliability.

DENISE MALOOF: Denny, thank you very much for your time this afternoon. We appreciate it. Good best of luck this weekend at Martinsville.

DENNY HAMLIN: Thank you.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing