An interview with: Denny Hamlin - 2nd KERRY THARP: We've got our second and third place finishers. Our second place finisher is Denny Hamlin. He drives the No. 11 FedEx freight Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Our third place finisher to his right...
An interview with:
Denny Hamlin - 2nd
KERRY THARP: We've got our second and third place finishers. Our second place finisher is Denny Hamlin. He drives the No. 11 FedEx freight Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Our third place finisher to his right is Tony Stewart. He drives the No. 14 Old Spice Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart Haas racing.
First I'll call on Denny. Denny, you led many laps out there. Talk about how things unfolded throughout the race and then down there towards the stretch.
DENNY HAMLIN: The more cycles we had, the looser we got. We were still in position. But, unfortunately, on short tracks, when you find yourself in the lead, with less than a car length, you know, you're vulnerable. You're putting yourself out there. Your bumper is pretty big. The guy who is second, who is hungry to win, sees it, sees an opportunity. That's what he did, he took advantage. We were in a bad spot, I guess you could say.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Denny Hamlin, as well, here.
Q: Denny, after dominating like this today, and even though you know that moving somebody out of the way is sort of standard procedure at a place like this, how hard was it to give a class answer like you did to FOX out on the pit road and give class answers right now? Do you have to swallow some temper or some anger and bite your tongue a little bit? Also, could you go through Jimmie's move for us blow by blow.
DENNY HAMLIN: You know, it's not that hard because I know I would do the same thing. You can't sit here and tell nobody can sit here and tell me they wouldn't do the same thing that he did. You know, honestly, with 15 to go, I'd rather be in second than first because I'm going to move the guy out the way.
Unfortunately, the way he did it, unfortunately for me, it got us way up high to where I couldn't get back to him. It would have been great if it just got us up a little bit. He was smart. Got us up high enough to where we got trash on our tires. I was done after that. I was just trying to keep up. We gained a little bit at the end. Believe me, I've been in the top three many times. I've led many times on last laps and all that. You know, it's tough to say that you've gotten used to losing, but I've gotten used to the disappointment at the end. It's not like a new thing.
My hunger is still the same, for sure. I want to win races, you know, but I can't help being in the position I was in. I ran as hard as I could. He was on my bumper. He was on position to move me out of the way, and he did. I would have done the same thing. The only thing I wished is that I was faster, you know, a little bit faster, to where I couldn't even let him get to me. But, unfortunately, we had a restart. I think I did pull away a little bit, then we had that caution. The restart put him back on me and the rest is history. It's short track racing. As a fan, as a racecar fan, I like going to short tracks. I like seeing guys move each other out of the way for the last few laps for a win. It's just part of it. I think that's what makes our sport as good as it is.
Q: Denny, as Jimmie made that pass, were you able to realize almost immediately that you were not going to be able to catch up to him, to bump him or turn him, whatever you might do? Was it clear he was going to have that distance?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, it slowed us down enough to where I was in fourth gear. You know, he was still when he moved us up, it moved us up to where the trash was on the racetrack. Like there was so much rubber built up, it moved us up to the fourth lane. Definitely if we get that chance, you know, and I feel like we will, it will be in a Chase race. Hopefully it will pay bigger dividends than it does now.
Q: Denny, on the pass that you made on the restart, did you and Kyle Busch work together at all? Did y'all sort of coordinate your efforts in the way he slowed down, let you in front?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I asked my spotter to get with Jeff Dickerson and ask him to let me clear getting in turn one because, you know, up high is definitely really tough on restarts. So, yeah, I think he saw that I was pushing Jimmie down the front stretch. He backed out because he knew I was going to make a move on Jimmie. He knew what was coming and I did communicate about that.
Q: The fact that it's Jimmie Johnson, does that come into play at all? Does it make it easier that it's a guy that's well respected and regarded for him to put that kind of move on you?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I think so. I think it plays into it a little bit. Jimmie has always been really fair to me. We've raced really well together. We've raced like this a lot on short tracks. We've been around each other a bunch. Yeah, I mean, his credibility is 50% of why it's easy to take because, you know, I know he's the competitor he is and he's a clean driver. I think actually when he did get me up the track that he slowed down to try to let me somewhat get my stuff back together, but unfortunately I was up in the trash so much that I couldn't do anything. So, yeah, I think his reputation definitely helped him there.
Q: Denny, again you seemed to have the dominant Gibbs car with Kyle finishing 24th, Joey finishing 32nd. What is your key to having a good setup here? Kyle talked about not being able to set up his car to where he's as dominant as you are. Why do you think your teammates don't necessarily have the same success?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know. I'm just better on short tracks, I think. It's just typically, you know, last year we scored the most points on short tracks. It's just something that I'm it's what I've got the most time on, all my career, you know, since I was a kid. I've been racing on tracks shorter than a half a mile. Once you figure out how to win, you know what to go back to.
I don't think Kyle's got a win here. So I think it's tough for him to come here and figure out exactly what he needs to have a race winning setup. It's nothing more than that. Kyle is better than I am on the bigger tracks. I'm better on the shorter tracks. It's just part of the driving style which you've grown up doing.
Q: Denny, when you make a move like did you on the restart, you have Jimmie Johnson in your rearview mirror, do you expect the move he made for the win?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, you do expect it. You know, it's just I thought maybe it would happen a little bit later in the race. But, yeah, I thought he was just going to sit there and ride and ride and wait till the last couple laps to do it. But you got to think at it from his standpoint. He don't know if my car is going to get better, his gets worse, and then I'm too far away from him to make a move like that. That's the thing about this racetrack, when you have an opportunity late in a race to nudge a guy out of the way, you got to make sure you do it quick because you don't know when your car's gonna change, and you can't keep up with a guy any more and you can't drive to him.
That's the thing at the end, I couldn't get back to him. He got me loose enough to where he was able to pull five car lengths, while we only gained two of that back in the last 15 laps. To me, I think he did it just right. It's just one of the days. The tables will be turned and I'm sure he'll expect it. It's just part of it.
Q: When he got inside you on the backstretch, you tried to close down on the inside curb, is that kind of like a close your eyes, here we go, hoping that what could happen doesn't?
DENNY HAMLIN: I didn't cut down on him. He really wasn't there until the corner. I think he made a really aggressive move to get down in there. My brake package was really good all day so I felt like I was getting in the corner very, very good. But just he drove down a little bit deeper. You know, it was just kind of, yeah, I knew it was going to be hairy. I knew it was going to be close. But, you know, when you did get there, you're at the mercy of his right front bumper. It worked well for him.
Q: Going into turn three, you said he didn't go down on him or squeeze him. He was saying that. If you said you didn't squeeze him, the question would be, why wouldn't you in a situation like that?
DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I did once we were in the corner. But he wasn't actually on the inside of me till we got to the corner really, really late. He moved low down the straightaway, but he wasn't actually there. I was still clear to go on in. I think it was at the very last instance on turndown where he got position. By then, I'm already committed to the bottom. There's nothing I can do but steer straight and go way up the racetrack. My line was committed. He'll probably agree. It was a late charge into the corner, but no foul there. That's just it.
Q: Denny, as the senior driver now at JGR, seems like there's always been somebody stuck out front, whether it was Tony for a while, Kyle. But Kyle was saying Friday that Denny's stuff works here and we have the same equipment. That bothers him. He feels kind of lost here. For once, do you really feel like the senior JGR driver when you come to this place? Do you feel that way when you go other places?
DENNY HAMLIN: Anywhere a mile and shorter I feel pretty confident that, you know, we're going to be the best (laughter). Even our big track program has gotten better. We've been able to keep up with Kyle on the bigger tracks. It's just Kyle has really a gift of speed. He knows what it takes to go fast. To make a car go fast, regardless of the handling, regardless of anything, he's found a way to really make his car go fast.
That's something that I'm not good at. It's through my entire career, I've not been good on short runs. That's why, you know, it was our Achilles' heel that we had that caution at the end because short runs kill me. I lost a go kart race at Harvick's a few days ago because of the short run. Beat me on the short run. Came back to the front on a long run. I don't know what it is. We're racing in the wet there. It ain't got nothing to do with tires. I don't know what it is, I just can't go fast for a few laps. It's something I got to work on as a driver to get better because if I was faster, then I wouldn't even let Jimmie get close. But just Kyle's got that gift and it's paid off for him because at the end of these races there's been a lot of short runs and that's where Kyle's best gift is, he's able to go, regardless of the handling, and that's where he's gotten his wins. It's something I have to work on. When these races go to long runs, you always see the 11 car come to the front. Just part of it.
Q: How soon we forget, with 45 to go you had a great move on a restart to pass Johnson. Walk us through that. You probably couldn't have timed that one any more perfectly.
DENNY HAMLIN: No, it was definitely one of my better restarts for sure. Just our cars don't have the greatest takeoff on corner exit it seems like. We're still off in that aspect. I think we need to work on our engines and whatnot to get better. On new tires it seems like the Hendrick cars pull away tremendously on corner exit. That's something we've got to work on. But, yeah, it was a great timing thing. I had my nose on Jimmie. I think he spun the tires a little bit, just enough to where I could really get good position. Once he saw that I charged in there, he had no choice but to move up or else there was going to be a situation where we got tangled up like we did in three and four. It just was a good timing. I kind of set that restart as, All right, this is the one I'm really going to try to go after him in turn one and just worked out good.
KERRY THARP: Denny, thanks a lot. Good luck at Texas.