Loudon: Winning team interview, part 1

DENNY HAMLIN , NO. 11 FEDEX GROUND IMPALA SS - WINNER MIKE FORD, CREW CHIEF JD GIBBS , PRESIDENT OF JOE GIBBS RACING MODERATOR: "We are joined by today's race winner driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin. Tell us about...


MODERATOR: "We are joined by today's race winner driver of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Chevrolet, Denny Hamlin. Tell us about your run."

DENNY HAMLIN: "We definitely had a good run. We weren't as good in times in this race as what we hoped but I think for the most part we knew we were about a top-five or six car there for most part of the case. Top-three at times for the most part. Mike (Ford) was biding his time on when to make that two tire call at the end.

"Of course I was giving the crew an earful at the beginning of the race about, "I just need some track position." That's where we got the damage from contact with Montoya. We just were struggling back to there get around guys and it was so hard to pass, I knew if we just got that clean air that we would be in better shape. "Wasn't exactly feeling good about the four tires right behind us, but I tell you, I thought I could hold him off for maybe five laps and salvage a good finish after that but our car just took off."

MODERATOR: "We are joined by winning crew chief Mike Ford. Tell us about today's strategy."

MIKE FORD: "Here at Loudon, we have historically done two tires and going into the race had a number of 120 to 130 laps to where we would do our last four tires stop. Inside that need to be fuel only or two tires and with the COTs, you don't get a lot of left side wear.

"So it played to our advantage, and like Denny said, we had a fifth, sixth place car most of the day. With four tires and the guys that were better in front of us with four tires, we knew we would not have a shot at winning and are really feel pretty comfortable inside the Chase right now. So, we were trying to do something to benefit us down the road. Our only shot to benefit us down the road was try to get a win, and put the car out front and Denny did a great job staying out front. And the clean air at Loudon is very important with this COT and back in traffic we were just too tight, and up front, were the best lap times even on two tires that we ran all day."

MODERATOR: " We are also joined by team president, J.D. Gibbs. JD, tell us about your view of the race."

J.D. GIBBS: "Looked good for a while. We have had so many good runs and so many close calls for us, it was just nice to get out there and get that win and now go build that momentum.

"My hat is off to Mike the way he called that race, and to Denny. I laughed, Denny actually in the race was telling Mike, how much track position, "two tires, two tires" and Mike said, "just wait, just wait, just wait." And so Mike gave him two at the end there and so Denny takes full credit for the call himself."

Q: Mike we talked this morning about you were such good shape as far as the points that you felt in position to take a risk if it allowed itself here this afternoon, were you sort of bound and determined, if you had any chance at all you were going to step out and take a risk?

MIKE FORD: "Absolutely. Like I mentioned, a win was the only thing we could have come out here with to really pay off down the road and what we are looking for is a championship and try to close some ground to the Hendrick car inside the Chase. If we came out here second today, we really didn't gain anything. Our only shot, even though we didn't have the best race car, was to try to put it out front and to try to win the race.

"At the end, it did raise itself to that as a possibility. So it seemed a little bit of a stretch being 50 laps on the left side tires, but like I mentioned the left side with these tires don't seem to wear that much. And at worse, we may have fallen back to where we were anyway, so really nothing to lose in the call and something to gain, and we did gain with getting the win."

Q: Just to follow up on that, had it been a hotter day, where the track temperatures came up more rapidly and tire wear became more of an issue, would you have been inclined to have to take four at that point?

MIKE FORD: "I don't want to sound overconfident but had it been a little bit warmer, I think we would have had a better car and not been that that situation.

"We knew it was going to be cool and overcast. Don't know it was going to be as cool and overcast as it was. We chased that today. Had we known what today was going to be, we would have adjusted the car a little bit differently going into the race.

"But, going in, if it were hot, we may have had to think about it a little harder to get two tires but I think we would have had a better car if it were hot."

Q: What means more to you today, getting the win and the ten bonus points were with Jeff finishing second, keeping him from winning and getting ten bonus points and even further ahead?

DENNY HAMLIN: "Probably from our standpoint getting the points. If we would have finished second today we wouldn't have accomplished much. If Jeff would have won he would have stretched his lead further.

"This is a good confidence booster for this race team. This is my first win where I didn't have just an absolute dominant race car all day, and, for the most part, this is what we needed as a race team. We had come so close so many times this year, we always talk about what we could or should have but the bottom line is we weren't going to have anything going into the Chase if we didn't start getting wins.

"We talked about it, about Pocono time, about we needed to start taking chances. We could have took four tires and made a safe car and finish somewhere in the top-five more than likely, somewhere around third, fourth, fifth or sixth. But we chose to take the two, because we have a decent enough lead on 12th right now that we feel like we can take those little extra risks.

"This risk was the reward was going to be much better, much bigger than the consequence if it didn't work. We took the chances when it really mattered and for us it's about momentum. We've seen what it has done with the one car, and I think it's going to do the same for us."

Q: You've come in here (media center) a couple of times this year after some races and said, it's the most frustrated you've ever been in your life and come to close; were you wondering what you had to do to win a race, to get back to victory lane or who you pissed off before the season to get back here?

DENNY HAMLIN: "I knew we were capable of it. You're going to run in the top three or four continuously and not get a win then win eventually. It's going to happen. We knew it was going to happen eventually.

"For us, we're being competitive every week, and that's what's keeping us motivated right now is we know when we unload we have a top-five race car each and every time we hit the racetrack.

"With a couple lucky breaks here and there, we can win a lot of races. For us even though we were frustrated and we had not gotten a win yet, we knew it was just a matter of time before we did, I didn't want to start too far behind the Hendrick cars as far as the Chase is concerned because I knew it was going to come down this Chase is going to come down to 10, 15 points. I firmly believe that. We are not going to be able to start 50,60 behind and overcome it without them having problems.

"If we start 20, 30 behind, I think we can beat them on the racetrack by that much. We just have to keep doing the things we're doing and not have any bad luck."

Q: Denny, six weeks ago, you were talking about giving away races on pit road and everything, dropped lug nuts, that kind of thing. Talk about where that is now, and did that at any point since then kind of play into maybe how many tires you take on, just worrying about what next could go wrong on pit road?

DENNY HAMLIN: "Not really for the most part. Since we made a change, we've kind of eliminated the big mistakes that we were making in the past. We felt like we were strong enough on the racetrack to do the things that we needed to do to - take chances to get wins. If we just eliminated those big problems in those few races, then we definitely win a bunch of them.

"But right now we're just trying to maintain and build that pit crew in to what it needs to be come Chase time, and I think they are slowly but surely getting there and I think that's why we made the changes as early as we did in the season is because with ten races to go, we need them at their best. But they are definitely getting there and they are heading in the right direction."

Q: It's only your second year in the Cup, what do you do to put aside races like Phoenix or ones with the dropped lug nuts, to focus on just getting to a racetrack and driving hard?

DENNY HAMLIN: "I don't know, I always think that I'm really, really focused when it comes to race day. I goof around a lot and do a lot of foolish things probably on and off the racetrack (Laughter) I may act like I'm 12 at times (Laughter).

"But when it comes to racing, I'm as competitive as Tony (Stewart), and that's the benchmark for competitiveness because it doesn't get any higher than him. I can be the first one to throw something after I finish second. It's just the way I am. I feel like if I don't win, then I need to figure out why I got beat. That's what keeps us going every single week is knowing that, man, we're so close to a win, let's just keep trying harder and harder to get a win and finally it breaks through for you and next thing you go on a roll.

"I'd like to think that really it all boils down to being focused."

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Denny Hamlin