Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Freight Monte Carlo SS, spoke with the media at Michigan International Speedway about Dale Earnhardt, Jr. joining Hendrick Motorsports, racing at MIS, racing at Infineon Raceway and other subjects: ON DALE EARNHARDT,...
Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Freight Monte Carlo SS, spoke with the media at Michigan International Speedway about Dale Earnhardt, Jr. joining Hendrick Motorsports, racing at MIS, racing at Infineon Raceway and other subjects:
ON DALE EARNHARDT, JR. JOINING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS: "It's a great move for him, for Junior to go to that team (Hendrick Motorsports), obviously. I think his mind was pretty much made up before he even left DEI, where he wanted to go. If you want to win now, obviously that's a great position to put yourself in."
WHAT DOES THAT DO FOR COMPETITION IN THE SPORT? "I don't know. It's definitely a tough team regardless. I wouldn't put Kyle (Busch) below any of those guys as far as driving talent is concerned. You're kind of getting rid of one and getting another so it could go either way."
WHAT COULD IT DO FOR KYLE, KNOWING THAT HE'S LEAVING? "As far as the talent aspect, he could be one of the more sought-after drivers in this garage area. For him to be looking for a ride, it's not going to take long. You're going to have just as many owners interested in Kyle as they were in Junior."
ON WHAT FATHER'S DAY MEANS TO YOU: "We always have a lot of great memories but the non-racing part of it is always going to the car shows in their old hot rod. All I would ask them to do is let me polish his chrome bumpers and things like that. That was really the first thing that he really involved me in and working on his show car. That kind of got us really close at the beginning."
YOU GUYS HAVE A COUPLE RACES NOW WITH A RECONFIGURED PIT CREW. HAS THAT HELPED? "Yeah. Things have gelled with the pit crew. They're getting better every week. The biggest thing is we're not making big mistakes right now. That's the important thing. We can beat most of the guys on the race track, we just need some help on pit road. If we can maintain and if we lose a spot or two here or there, that's not so bad. It's when you lose the 15 or 20 at the end that will bite you. For the most part we're still searching around trying to find that perfect chemistry but things are heading towards that direction."
HOW TOUGH IS IT TO BE PATIENT KNOWING THAT SOONER OR LATER YOU'LL END UP IN VICTORY LANE? "It's just going to make us appreciate it more when we finally get there. Even though we had our first and second wins at Pocono last year, the second one we expected to win. We were expected to win a lot this year through the races that we've had and we haven't got it. When you fall short like that, as many times as we have, it's definitely going to make us appreciate being in Victory Lane and just drive us to work harder to get there. I think we have all the things to do it, obviously every single week. We just are not getting those breaks that we need to finish the deal off. All that could change. You never know from week to week when luck is going to turn your way. Hopefully it's waiting to shine on us for the last 10."
HOW HAVE YOU AVIODED THE SOPHOMORE SLUMP? "It's tough to say. I knew going into this year that I was going to be a lot better race car driver than what I was last year. And Carl (Edwards), I can guarantee you, they talk about his was not so great the next year. His talent didn't get any worse. I guarantee he's probably better the second year than he was the first, it's just that momentum swinging and what team is running well. Roush didn't run well that year, Gibbs is running very well this year and I'm a part of the team. I think it has more of affect on whether your team stays up on the competition or not to be whether you're successful your second year."
HOW DID YOU KNOW YOU WOULD BE BETTER THIS YEAR THAN LAST? "I knew at a lot of race tracks that I did not have the experience to go fast. Didn't know what it took to make my car good until the race started. Half, three-quarters of the way through the race is when I realized 'oh, I got the hang of it now'. So when I go back to those race tracks, I can figure it out and practice. So it gives us even more time to work on our race car and fine-tune it. The more information you can give, the better off you're going to be. For the most part, that's why we're better. I'm able to give better information."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ROAD COURSES? "I've got a lot of confidence on road courses, especially since we tested at V.I.R. about a week or so ago and we were very good up there. Tony was really good. Gibbs as a whole is riding high right now. Even though we haven't run races we've led a lot of laps. That goes a long way as far as the teams are concerned. To know that you're competitive, the more we go to the road courses, they've always been good on road courses in the past and Tony's just a machine when it comes to road-course races. Obviously I've learned a lot from him and I know we've got great equipment on our side."
IN REGARDS TO TRUEX, JR. AND MEARS, DOES THE PRESSURE GET LIGHTER OR MORE INTENSE AFTER YOUR FIRST WIN? "I think that those guys are just going to keep performing better. Obviously the pressure's off them to win their first race and now you see with Truex and Mears, the same way, the momentum those guys are carrying for the next three to four weeks. This is about the time that we really started going on a run last year and it was right after the first Pocono win. I think the confidence level is definitely there for those guys and it's obviously showing up now."
WHICH IS THE FAVORITE FEDEX COMMERCIAL YOU'VE DONE? "The lawnmower one last year was the funnest to make, as far as this year the one with the retirement home was my favorite."
IS JUAN PABLO MONTOYA A THREAT NEXT WEEK? "I definitely think so. He was really smooth at Mexico. He had a really, really good car at Mexico so that kind of makes up for a little bit but these Cup guys are a lot different than the Busch guys on the road courses. I think he's got a good a chance as any, to say the favorite would be stretching it. Guys like Gordon and Stewart and those guys have just proved how well they are at road courses. I think with the new car, it will also rely a lot on how good his race car is. Ganassi, it's tough to say how their road-course package is going to end up. They could be at the top of the list or the middle. If that's the case, he's going to have a hard time trying to make up for what his car doesn't have."
HOW BIG A LEAP IS IT FROM MEXICO TO A CUP ROAD RACE? "It's big, especially Sonoma. Because Sonoma is way more technical than Mexico City or Watkins Glen. It's slower speeds so you've got to be very line-sensitive. I found that after I went there the first time, I struggled until halfway through the race just trying to figure out where I needed to be on the race track, just flat-out overdriving it. I was driving it like I would Watkins Glen or any other road course and realized that I just needed to slow down a little bit. I think that's one thing he's going to have to probably learn."
HOW HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS? "It's changed a little bit. The biggest thing is my confidence level has definitely changed. Last year I was going to these race tracks not knowing what to expect or what I needed to do and this year I've got a lot more confidence and that's what really showing up on the race track. When you go somewhere you've been before you're going to be more confident, you're going to be faster. That's probably the biggest change. Lifestyle-wise it's really no different."
CAN YOU GO TO THE MOVIES OR A RESTAURANT AND NOT GET MOBBED? "That part of it's changed a little bit from the first year until now. But it was expected. I knew it when I signed up for this job and this is what a lot of young guys out there racing go-karts right now would be hoping for, is to have the attention and have fans want their autograph. It's nothing that you can really complain about. You've got one of the very few jobs in the world that most of us would love to do and would do it for free."
WHEN DID YOU FIND OUT THAT DALE EARNHARDT, JR. WAS NOT GOING TO JOE GIBBS RACING? "I knew probably a week ago that just through talking to some guys and their last conversation with that whole camp, it sounded like they already had their mind made up before the whole deal even started. I think going to other teams was really just a motion they went through, kind of a protocol thing."
SO AS RECENTLY AS A WEEK AGO THEY WERE STILL TALKING TO YOUR TEAM? "Well, the people that represent Gibbs and just talking through them, they kind of were a little discouraged after their last conversation and basically said their chances were very slim."
WHAT WOULD IT HAVE BEEN LIKE TO HAVE HIM AS A TEAMMATE? "It would have been good for the whole team, it would have been good for all three of us. I think that we're still building on that team today. J. J. (Yeley) is really stepping up over the last few weeks and he's in the top 20 in points now. He's continued to be a better driver than he has been in the past. So obviously he's stepping up and eventually, hopefully we have that powerhouse team that everyone looks at."
DID THE KID IN THE VIDEO GAME COMMERCIAL GET YOUR AUTOGRAPH? "Yeah, it was exciting to see the race last week and to see the last two commercials unveiled for the year. It was exciting to see all of those finally come out and I think they turned out great."
WAS THERE ANY DISAPPOINTMENT THAT THE DEAL WITH DALE JR. DIDN'T WORK OUT? "A little bit disappointed, yeah. In the same aspect I think you end up putting yourself on the box when that happens, then you're kind of. I can't talk about that too much. For the most part it could be better in the long haul for our team to stay the way it is because Gibbs kind of flies under the radar. Hendrick right now is going to have all the stars and they've got probably three of the big four drivers in their stable. Whether that's good for one race team or not, I'm not too sure."
WAS THERE TRUTH TO THE RUMORS THAT GIBBS WILL ADD A FOURTH CAR NEXT YEAR? "I think if they were going to do that, the motions would already have to be in place. I think if you are going to add an additional car, two months past mid-season, it's really going to be a stretch to try to get all your cars done and get all prepared for that new guy. So I think for the most part we're going to keep our three-car team for next year."
ARE YOU ANXIOUS TO SEE HOW MONTOYA WILL PERFORM AT SONOMA? "I don't know. I'm sure we're going to be on our own agenda and not (be) really too concerned with it. But it will be interesting to see how he does and I know my experience on that race track last year, I wrecked a car in practice. I realized very quick that that is a very, very tough race track. Even though a road course is a road course, it's one of the more technical ones out there. So I think it's going to reward a smooth driver rather than a fast, aggressive one. I think he's been fast and aggressive this year so I think he's probably going to have to turn that down at Sonoma."
LOOKING AT YOUR PERSONALITY, THIS SEEMS LIKE A GREAT TEAM FOR YOU: "Yeah, I'm kind of the guy in between. I'm not as outspoken as Tony might be or I'm not as soft-spoken as J.J. may be. I think we have a good team right now and even looking to the future, I know J.J.'s talents continue to get higher and our team as a whole hasn't even hit it's peak yet. And we're already competitive. So I think here in the future, we're going to be really tough to beat."
WHAT'S THE STRANGEST THING SOMEONE HAS ASKED YOU TO SIGN? "I think their shoe was probably the most strange thing, right off their foot. You would think that would eventually wear off but I don't know, some people like it."
-credit: gm racing