Pocono II: Winning team press conference, part 1

DENNY HAMLIN AND CREW CHIEF, MIKE FORD: THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by the winner of today's Pennsylvania 500. He swept both races here at the Pocono Raceway. I'm told it's the first time in the history of the track that a ...


THE MODERATOR: We are pleased to be joined by the winner of today's Pennsylvania 500. He swept both races here at the Pocono Raceway. I'm told it's the first time in the history of the track that a driver has won both races in the same season from the pole. Bill Elliott won both races in '85, but he did not sit on the pole. Daryl Waltrip sat on the pole, but that pole was disallowed weeks later because of a disqualification.

Take us through your championship race out there today.

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, we really had a really strong car all day. You know, we just made fine?tune adjustments all day. We were a little bit tight at times, and Mike and the whole crew just did a great job of making really small adjustments all day.

I knew when I went out there what kind of car I had because, you know, we weren't really in left field and had to make a lot of changes. It was really good for us. We unloaded really good, and, you know, just continued our run through Sunday.

You know, we went as hard as I've needed to at times and it seemed like the competition got better at times. It kind of had us sweating a little bit at the end when Kurt kind of broke even with us. When I heard that he was breaking even, I stepped it up a little bit more and I pulled out a little bit. So it was really good. We got to improve on that and come back next year with an even stronger car.

DENNY HAMLIN: We're also joined by championship crew chief, Mike Ford. Take us through the pit calls that you made out there today. What did you say?

MIKE FORD: It was pretty simple today. It was straightforward, you know. The car the first 20?lap run was really strong. We knew that we'd make small adjustments and, you know, from there we were making quarter pound tire pressure adjustments and quarter rounds on wedge, and the car reacted early. The track did seem to tighten up at the end, but we were still fast and really didn't want to adjust much at the end. We were still fast enough to hold on.

DENNY HAMLIN: Okay. Thank you, guys. We're going to take some questions now.

Q</I>: Denny, how confident are you now going to the Brickyard? And I assume you're taking this car?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, after our test, I wasn't very confident. I felt like going into the test that we were gonna be, you know, really fast, but, you know, I seemed to struggle when I was there. Don't know exactly what we were fighting. Just overall grip really.

But that's kind of been the trend of, you know, all the Gibbs cars over the testing throughout the year. Every time we go to test, we're not all that good. We come back to race, we're really good.

So, you know, we didn't have the car that we have now. It kind of just sat in the corner and waited for this race. I'm sure we're gonna use it up pretty much the rest of the year and, you know, the Brickyard being especially.

Q</I>: Denny, had an awfully fast car. Were in front a lot of today. Perhaps there wasn't as much pressure on you. Did it occur to you that you're a rookie? For a lot of people watching the race, it seemed like you were the only guy who had any sense out there. There's a lot of pressure in this regular season going down to the end.

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I mean, if you really got to, you know, do a lot of extreme things to get track position and put yourself out front, then, yeah, you do things that you probably wouldn't normally do on the racetrack. But our car was so good that, you know, we took four tires when a lot of guys took two just 'cause there was no sense in risking it. We took our time getting back towards the front. You know, just our car wasn't as good in traffic as it was out front for sure, but, you know, it's just one of those things where when you unload a great race car, we got plenty of pit stops here to just fine?tune it. That's what we did.

Q</I>: Denny, even though it's a six?week break between the first Pocono race and this one, a lot of times drivers say that the track is completely different. I was wondering, was the track similar to the first one? Also, sometimes because it's so different, the winner sometimes tinkers with the setup. How different was the setup from the June race?

MIKE FORD: We unloaded with the exact same setup we ran in June, knowing that the track could be a little different, and we had a different left?side tire. We wanted to kind of quantify how different the track was and the tire. So we made a short race run right off the truck, and was pretty close. The speed came back. Seemed like we picked up right where we left off in June. The car was a little bit tight, so we knew we needed to free it up. We freed it up in qualifying trim and hit it very close. We made the same adjustments in race trim and obviously hit that very close.

Q</I>: Mike, I believe you said last month when Denny won that you enjoy working with a rookie after some of your previous experiences with veteran drivers. Could you tell us what your first impressions of him were as a driver and a person, and, you know, what does he have that is making him so successful?

MIKE FORD: Well, he enjoys sitting in the race car every day, you know. The last couple weeks, seems like every day he's been in the race car. He gives good feedback, and we talk a lot the same language. We come from, you know, similar backgrounds. And, you know, very competitive. You try and pair yourself with someone that has that as equal as you do, and when I first started working with Denny, I saw that with Denny. The feedback he had was really good. You could make small adjustments, and the car would react to it, so you know he's putting the car on the edge. You know, for a crew chief, that's very rewarding, the fact that you know when you make an adjustment that you're gonna see a result.

Q</I>: You're the sixth guy to sweep. You join names like Bobby Allison, Tim Richman, Bill Elliott. What does it mean to you to be included amongst those drivers?

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, my name sticks out like a sore thumb with all those guys.

I don't know. Just to accomplish that so early in my career that I hope is a long one, it means a lot. It's just a testament of the good stuff I'm in. I mean, everyone knows how good, you know, Tony runs week in, week out. I got the same thing, so there's no reason why I can't run the same as what he does. And, you know, his stuff was good enough to win the championship last year.

So, you know, at Gibbs, we're really working together as a whole right now. Things are really good between the three teams and the communication. We're bouncing a lot of stuff off the 20 and the 18, and at tracks like this, they're coming back at us.

You know, I think the three teams at Gibbs are closer than what they ever have been in history, and it's definitely shown on the racetrack.

Q</I>: Denny, are you still looking forward to having this weekend off, or do you wish you could take this car and this momentum and just go straight to Indianapolis?

DENNY HAMLIN: Either/or. It's good that you get to ride a win for two weeks. That's a good thing.

But on the other hand, you definitely want to keep that momentum going. When you get back on the racetrack, you still have the confidence of, Hey, you know, you just won the last race. And we're going to a very similar racetrack. Gonna be in the same car. So we definitely, you know, are tending for a great run. If the driver figures out the racetrack, we'll be in good shape.

Q</I>: I have two questions, one not really serious. Could Pocono be in the Chase?

DENNY HAMLIN: I don't know. It's hard ...

Q</I>: From your perspective.

DENNY HAMLIN: Of course I'm gonna say yes (laughing). But I don't know. It seems like they've got a pretty good balance of racetracks there in the, you know, Chase. They've got pretty much everything but a road course. We only run that twice a year, so there's really no sense in that.

But, you know, I think they're gonna twist the schedule around a little bit, and hopefully we come back here twice.

Q</I>: When you've got a car that's this good, and I'm sure maybe there's some short tracks back in your career you had a car that you knew if you didn't mess up, you would win, and that had to be how you were feeling today. Is that tough for a driver in a different kind of way? It's obviously a great problem to have, but do you think about, Okay, I can't mess this up? Do you get a little defensive maybe?

DENNY HAMLIN: I tell you, it's amazing that I was getting upset when guys were running within a tenth of my lap times. I really was. I was getting in the car, I was like, Man, I can't believe those guys were running that fast.

It's just ? I don't know. It's just part of it. You know, I knew coming into this race that it almost felt like just a normal short track race. I got the pole. As long as something doesn't happen, I'm gonna cruise to a victory. It's not that easy in Cup. Guys, these crew chiefs and everyone in the garage, are smart enough to get better. They did throughout the race. We had some challengers there at certain parts of the race, different cars. We just need to make sure we were on our game the whole time. We couldn't just sit back, you know, count down laps and plan on winning. We definitely had to work on it.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Bobby Allison