Martinsville: Winning team press conference

Transcript: Martinsville Speedway Post-Race March 29, 2010 An interview with DENNY HAMLIN - Winner MIKE FORD - Crew chief J.D. GIBBS - President Joe Gibbs Racing KERRY THARP: We have our race-winning team. Our race winner is Denny Hamlin. We...

Transcript: Martinsville Speedway Post-Race
March 29, 2010

An interview with
DENNY HAMLIN - Winner
MIKE FORD - Crew chief
J.D. GIBBS - President Joe Gibbs Racing

KERRY THARP: We have our race-winning team. Our race winner is Denny Hamlin. We are also joined by crew chief Mike Ford and president of Joe Gibbs Racing, J.D. Gibbs.

Denny, second win in a row here at Martinsville Speedway. Talk about your victory out there today.

DENNY HAMLIN: It was an eventful day for us. The first run, we were really able to make some ground up. I knew our car was extremely strong. As soon as the green flag dropped, we were able to make up some positions. Had a pit road thing where the car fell on a jack. I don't know where that put us back. There were a lot of cars in front of us. It was tough back there to make up ground.

I told Mike I felt like we could get back up to the front the old-fashioned way, driving up there, but it was going to take a little bit longer than what I wanted to. Hopefully we were going to be able to do some sort of pit strategy to get that track position back. We just did it the old-fashioned way. We passed the cars back. It was a good day for us.

I told Mike during practice on Saturday there was no doubts we were going to win this race. I didn't think it was going to be this hard or that dramatic at the end. Nonetheless, it's a good feeling.

KERRY THARP: Mike Ford, crew chief, certainly made some good calls out there that panned out. Talk about your day on pit road.

MIKE FORD: Today on pit road, like Denny mentioned, first couple pit stops we had a couple issues, had to fight for track position. Good thing that was early. We were able to shake that off and have some good stops towards the end of the race.

Coming down to the end, leading the race here at Martinsville, the last place you want to be when the caution comes out with 10 to go is the leader because everyone is going to take cuts at you. You wonder if you have enough time to get back.

You were thinking about that situation 30 laps prior, watching the weather also. But came right at the point where it's probably the most difficult call on pit road leading the race inside 10 to go, had 65 laps on our tires, new tires were going to be fast, but you don't know what everyone else is going to do.

KERRY THARP: J.D. Gibbs, had to be pleased about that 1-2 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing out there today.

J.D. GIBBS: A big deal for us. Joey to come home second, be smooth and consistent, a real testament. For Mike and Denny, I told Mike for the record, I never doubted him. But in reality I was cussing him up top the pit box (laughter).

But it was one of those things where they trust each other. Mike and Denny, it is what it is, they make their decisions. They've been doing this long enough as a team, they have a good feel for what the other one needs. I think he gave Denny what he needed. Did a good job of taking it to the front.

KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.

Q: I know you wanted to get the operation out of the way this morning, so when you found out that the rain had knocked the race out yesterday, were you a little frustrated that you had to postpone that? Now that you know you ended up winning it, I guess you don't mind too much.

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was frustrating because I really needed -- to me, I need every hour after it's done to recuperate, to be good for Phoenix.

We're going to have to deal with the cards we were dealt. Just like we did at the end of this race, things don't always happen the way you planned. It was frustrating we couldn't get it done. This is definitely a good alternative.

But I'm looking forward to getting it over with mainly because I know after that hour is done, every minute from there on out, we're gonna start to get better and better and better, where it started getting a little bit worse seems like here lately.

I mean, it bothered me a little bit probably the last hundred laps. But you're so focused on trying to win the race, it overcomes a lot of any kind of pain you have in the car.

Q: Denny, reminds me of Pocono last year where you spoke over to the radio saying you were going to win the race. Did you say that to him when you were in ninth place? Mike, did you have to say anything to calm Denny down there during that second to last restart when he was in fourth?

DENNY HAMLIN: No, I didn't say anything because I knew things were going to have to happen the way they happened for us to win this race. I mean, you know, we were able to get a good restart. Just all depended on where we were at on the second restart. How many cars were we going to be able to get before that caution came out. All that stuff was going to be a factor in us winning this race.

I didn't say anything after I saw we were going to come out ninth or 10th or something like that. There's just nothing you can do.

If we didn't pit, I can assure you 90% of the guys behind us would have pitted and we would have definitely lost the race if that's the case. To me, I think getting down to it, if I had to put a percentage on it, no matter what we do at the end of this race, whether we pit or don't pit, it was going to be about a 20% chance we win this race, that was about it. Things were going to have to happen. Not only that 20%, everything had to happen the way they did with us taking tires.

Q: The damned if you do, damned if you don't. Mike, what you did, the others will do the opposite. Mike, what do you do? Do you say, all being equal, I do what I think is best and wipe that out of my mind?

MIKE FORD: Well, here at Martinsville it's probably a little bit different. If we're at Charlotte or somewhere like that, even Phoenix, inside 10 to go here, you start doubling up those cars on the restarts. If we had the situation where it was still the old days where you had one attempt at the green-white-checkered or even before that, you would have stayed out. No doubt about it. If it were single file, it would have been an easy decision.

Being double file, like Denny mentioned, you know whatever you do, the guys behind you are going to try and play you. So your cards are shown when you commit either way. They're waiting on you to see what you're gonna do. Their only opportunity to win is to do the opposite.

The three attempts at a green-white-checkered played into the decision. I figured, Okay, we're down towards the end of the race, you're stacking new tires up with old tires. Guys are going to get aggressive. Somebody is going to get the short end of the stick on this, and it's going to be the guys that stayed out.

That played out once. That was all we needed. I was thinking, Okay, the possibility of more cautions are there on the restarts. We can get two or three spots on the restart and come out with this.

So it's pretty complex decision. You know, you have to go with your gut to a degree, knowing that others are going to take a shot at you. As soon as you pull down pit road or as soon as you stay on the racetrack, everyone is going to critique your decision.

Like Denny mentioned, guys are going to take a cut at you. They know if they play your game, you're still going to beat 'em.

Being the leader inside the 10 to go, the last thing you want to see is a caution.

Q: Denny, explain to us how the emotions are a little bit different when you win here in your home state.

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I mean, there's more FedEx jackets and hats and shirts in the stands. Believe it or not, we can see that. We see it under caution. You spend a lot of time at this racetrack under caution. So the racetrack, the stands are so close to the actual Speedway itself, you can look up there and see the guys rooting you on. Somehow it just gives you more motivation, for whatever reason, or determination. It's definitely more gratifying when you're able to do that because you know, my fans in particular, they could pick anybody, and probably guys that are more successful, win more races, but they have my stuff on because they believe in me.

When we're able to win, it makes me happy that they're happy.

J.D. GIBBS: For the record, we have a lot of Hamlins. We have thousands. His family supports him a lot.

Q: Take us through that last restart, what you saw happening. Jeff seemed to think that the 17 got in the back of him. He took him out to make sure he didn't win the race. Also on your burnout, you use your left knee a lot to do that. Any pain there at all?

DENNY HAMLIN: With the restart, I'm trying to play it back, and I don't even remember what happened. I remember going in the corner. I remember getting in the back of the 39. I think the 17 got in the back of 24. I don't know where the 39 went. I might have knocked him up high. I don't even know, to be honest with you. I wanted to try to click over right before that restart and tell the 20, if for some reason I got bottled up to please let me in. He's racing for the win just like I am, but his odds are going to be a lot less restarting fifth.

I tried to tell him to let me in. So instead I had to force my way in. I came down on the 20 coming off of two and I saw that the 24 and 17 were kind of locked together going down the backstretch. I was going to stick it three-wide. As soon as I saw my lift point, I saw the 17 still going in. I said, Well, I can't make it with new tires. There's no way he'll make it with old tires. I knew the best thing to do was to be patient, let him slide up. When I was slid up, the 24 is on the outside, so he took him with him.

I felt like going down the backstretch, I knew it was my race to win at that point.

The burnout, no, I kind of messed up because I kept trying to dial the rounds in it, but the car would kind of go out for some reason, so I used the wall to keep it straight. The car is beat to hell, I can tell you that.

J.D. GIBBS: You'll see a bill (laughter).

Q: (No microphone.)

DENNY HAMLIN: Just the heavy braking through the course of the race took its toll a little bit. Started getting a little numb. But, no, it's good.

Q: You talk about the first caution that came out and you didn't want to see it. What about the caution where Gordon was a hundred feet from winning the race, which was caused actually by Kyle going into the wall. J.D. you must have had mixed emotions at that point.

DENNY HAMLIN: I didn't know what caused it. I was really extremely proud the way Kyle and Joey did during the course of the day. They typically struggle around this racetrack. I know we had the same equipment. I felt like during practice I talked to both of them about what I thought they could do to improve. You know, Kyle at one point during that race, he was as fast as what I was. He's really made big strides at this track.

Joey speaks for himself. He just keeps going forward.

I didn't know what caused that last caution. But I was definitely relieved to see it. I think I was gonna finish probably second or third. I got underneath the 17 when that caution flew, so I knew I was going to be at least third. I wasn't going to catch the 24 unless the 17 got into him on the last lap had that caution not come out.

I was relieved in one sense, but I also thought there was a chance we could go backwards on this restart. Being up high, the guy who is second, whoever is leading on the restart can go up there and slide and knock the second place guy off the racetrack. I felt there was a good chance I could go backwards.

But to me, it didn't matter if we weren't going to finish this race, if we were going to finish second or 10th, I was going to have the same emotion. I was somewhat relieved to see it.

Q: Mike, a lot of tires went down. Is there any explanation for that that you can see? How big a worry was that for y'all at the end of the race?

MIKE FORD: With the last couple of weeks, with us and tires, it was a pretty big worry. I know historically over the last several races here, brake temperature and melting beads is very critical.

You know, I know Goodyear made some adjustments to the tire here to be able to allow for higher temperatures, but all that does is let you run the brakes hotter, and you reach the same point.

So, you know, that's up to the individual teams to control that here. You know, that's where Denny excels, is we never saw any brake temperature with him at all all day long. We keep a close eye on bead temperature to keep that from happening. I knew where those problems were coming in. I know they're all about the same time each run that it would happen. You know, we keep a close eye on our temperatures, knew that wasn't going to be a factor for us today, hoping it wasn't. We didn't see anything that indicated that it was.

Q: Denny, the Kenseth and Gordon weren't too happy with each other afterwards. Do you feel either of them were at fault or is that racing on a green-white-checkered?

DENNY HAMLIN: It's racing on a green-white-checkered. One is going to try to force his way in there, one is going to try to protect his position. Same deal with me and the 48 here in this race last year. He moved me out of the way. What can you do? When you're the leader, it's bad in a lot of different ways on a short track because you're at the mercy of the guy behind you.

Everyone's going to get into one another at some point. I got into probably four or five guys during the course of the day. Four or five guys probably got into the back of me. It happens. We're 43 cars on a half-mile racetrack. Then you put the checkered flag right in front of us, old tires on top of that, guys are not going to be able to control their cars as good as what they had all day.

That was one thing I thought was going to be good for us on the restarts. Even though those guys had older tires, their tires take a while to come in. When they go cold, it's like running on ice out there on restarts.

It's hard for me to blame anyone. The 17 was trying to win the race.

Q: Denny, how much of what we saw with you going charging at the end was of a guy that was so desperate wanting to win because of the rough start you had and how much of it was just four tires?

DENNY HAMLIN: Half and half. Four tires were definitely big for us. But, you know, it would have been hard to not win this race as good as what our car was. Obviously with the points position that we were in, we needed to make up some points and get some bonus points for the Chase.

The 48 is going to be hard enough to beat on a level playing field in the Chase, or anyone for that matter. But you start to give them 80 more bonus points, 60 more bonus points going into it, that's one bad race he gets for free. So you got to kind of manage that, make sure you stay close to him.

Q: What about Jeff Burton?

DENNY HAMLIN: For sure, Jeff was pushing. I don't know what cut his tire down, whether it was maybe brake heat or something like that, or maybe he just cut one down. He was really pushing hard there towards the end.

I felt like I knew, even though we pitted, when the 31 was getting to us about 30 to go, I knew there was a good chance we were going to have to end on these race tires, even if a caution came out. I really was kind of being patient. Even though he was kind of rattling us there at one point, really getting close to us, I really felt like if I needed to turn it up, I could. Once we did, it seemed like we could -- we pulled that gap, then he blew a tire.

I would have loved to race Jeff for the win there at the end. That was one of the best cars I've seen at Martinsville for a while, other than ourselves.

Q: Denny, having been in here Saturday talking about you were looking forward to getting past your surgery, regardless of medical advice, having won today, do you still feel that way? Do you feel a sense of now that you've won, you wish you could get back out and continue to do those kinds of things? Do you fear the surgery will somehow take away from what you were able to accomplish today?

DENNY HAMLIN: I don't think so. You know, regardless of what happened today or points position that we were in before or after today, it's something that had to be done. You know, I appreciate Joe and J.D. kind of being lenient. They could be hollering at me for having to do this. Of course, this is a non-related racing incident. But they've definitely helped me. I told them my concerns with longer term damage. The doctor expressed long-term damage possibilities. They thought the best thing to do, we felt like we were not going to sacrifice our season if we did it at this point. That was the determining factor.

Q: Is there a way to describe the satisfaction for you today compared to your other wins? Almost sounds like part of your mind it was a must win. Secondly, off those last two restarts, is there anybody you owe apologies or thank you notes to?

DENNY HAMLIN: I owe a thank you to the 20. No apologies. I can tell you I've been in the position where I've been out there on old tires and there are guys with new tires, and they just run flat over you. I felt like I didn't do that. I got into the back of the 39 on the first corner. Other than that, didn't touch anyone. I forced the 20 to let me in, kind of run him in down the back straightaway to let me in. I think it all worked out for the best for the both of us.

No, I mean, it's just part of short track racing. It's always going to happen. Whenever you have new tires versus old tires, you're going to have contact, there's no doubt about it.

This is probably the most gratifying win I've had simply because we came through adversity so many times, whether it be because of pit road or that dash at the end. We just flat out drove through 'em at the end and got the win. I'm not sure we've gotten a win like this before.

Q: Guys, Martinsville, a lot of people refer to it as sort of a springboard for y'all's season. How do y'all feel about that, especially considering the first couple races were pretty rough?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I feel like we haven't even got a chance to show what we have yet through the course of this year. We've had three blown tires in the first five races, and that really took a damper. Atlanta, we could have won that race. We definitely felt like we could have won that race. Bristol we never really got to show what we had before we cut a tire.

Yeah, usually this is where we start turning it up. I don't see that bar that's going up going down anytime soon. I think it's still going to keep getting better. For whatever reason, it just takes a little while for me and Mike to get back in rhythm and figure out what we need on each race day. Think it's starting to come through again.

KERRY THARP: Guys, J.D., Denny and Mike, congratulations. Denny, good luck with your surgery.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing